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University of California • Berkeley 

This manuscript is made available for 
research purposes. No part of the manu 
script may be quoted for publication without 
the written permission of the Director of the 
Feminist History Research Project or the 
Director of The Bancroft Library of the Uni 
versity of California at Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for 
publication should be addressed to the 
Feminist History Research Project, P.O. Box 
1156, Topanga, California 90290, or to the 
Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, 
and should include identification of the 
specific passages to be quoted, anticipated 
use of the passages, and identification of 
the user. 

Feminist History Research Project Regional Oral History Office 

P.O. Box 1156 486 The Bancroft Library 

Topanga, California 90290 University of California, Berkeley 

Suffragists Oral History Project 


Sylvie Grace Thompson Thygeson In the Parlor 

Jessie Haver Butler On the Platform 

Miriam Allen deFord In the Streets 

Laura Ellsworth Seller On the Soapbox 

Ernestine Hara Kettler Behind Bars 

Interviews Conducted by 
Sherna Gluck 

COP/ 1 

1975 by The Regents of the University of California- and 
The Feminist History Research Project 

Sylvie Thygeson 

Jessie Haver Butler 





INTRODUCTION by Sherna Gluck 


Ralda Sullivan Interviews Sylvie Thygeson 

Sherna Gluck and Mary Shepardson Interview Sylvie Thygeson 


The Formative Years 

Smith College: The Opening of New Vistas 

The Beginning of a Career 

Washington, D.C.: New Paths to Break 

The End of An Era: Dissolution of the National American 

Woman's Suffrage Association and the Formation of the 

League of Women Voters 

Suffrage, Feminism, and Attitudes Toward Men 
A New Path: Marriage and Family Life 

Return to Washington, D.C.: The Development of a New Career 
New Roots: California 

Full Circle: The Women's Liberation Movement 
Some Final Reflections 

III MIRIAM ALLEN deFORD: In the Streets 

The Feminist Roots 

Boston Years 

Some Additional Thoughts on Feminism 



Background: The Early Years 

Cornell: Entering the Suffrage Fray 

Organizing for Suffrage in the Western Counties of New York 

New York City: Entrance Into the Suffrage Politics of the 

Women's Political Union 
A Career in Advertising 

Tracing the Feminist Influences, Ideologies, Identification 
The Women ' s Movement Today 


Early Radicalism 

The Suffrage Struggle: Direct Action in Washington, D.C. 

Feminism, Radicalism, and Suffrage: Reflections 

After Jail: The Move West 

The Current Feminist Movement 


SUMMARY by Sherna Gluck 


The Suffragists Oral History Project was designed to tape 
record interviews with the leaders of the woman's suffrage 
movement in order to document their activities in behalf of 
passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and their continuing 
careers as leaders of movements for welfare and labor reform, 
world peace, and the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. 
Because the existing documentation of the suffrage struggle 
indicates a need for additional material on the campaign of 
the National Woman's Party, the contribution of this small 
but highly active group has been the major focus of the series. 

The project, underwritten by a grant from the Rockefeller 
Foundation, enabled the Regional Oral History Office to record 
first-hand accounts of this early period in the development 
of women's rights with twelve women representing both the 
leadership and the rank and file of the movement. Five held 
important positions in the National Woman's Party. They are 
Sara Bard Field, Burnita Shelton Matthews, Alice Paul, 
Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, and Mabel Vemon. Seven Interviews 
are with women who campaigned for suffrage at state and local 
levels, working with other suffrage organizations. Among 
this group is Jeannette Rankln, who capped a successful 
campaign for suffrage in Montana with election to the House 
of Representatives, the first woman to achieve this distinction. 
Others are Valeska Bary, Jessie Haver Butler, Miriam Allen 
de Ford, Ernestine Kettler, Laura Ellsworth Seller, and 
Sylvie Thygeson. 

Planning for the Suffragists Project and some preliminary 
interviews had been undertaken prior to receipt of the grant. 
The age of the women — ?**• to 104- — was a compelling motivation. 
A number of these Interviews were conducted by Sherna Gluck, 
Director of the Feminist History Research Project in Los 
Angeles, who has been recording Interviews with women active 
in the suffrage campaigns and the early labor movement. 
Jacqueline Parker, who was doing post-doctoral research on 
the history of the social welfare movement, taped interviews 
with Valeska Bary. A small grant from a local donor permitted 
r^alca Chall to record four sessions with Jeannette Rankln. Both 
Valeska Bary and Jeannette Rankln died within a few months of 
their last interviewing session. 


The grant request submitted to the Rockefeller Foundation 
covered funding both to complete these already- recorded 
Interviews and to broaden the scope and enrich the value of the 
project by the Inclusion of several women not part of the 
leadership. The grant, made In April, 1973. also provided 
for the deposit of all the completed Interviews In five major 
manuscript repositories which collect women's history materials. 

In the process of research, a conference with Anita 
Politzer (who served more than three decades In the highest 
offices of the National Woman's Party, but was not well enough 
to tape record that story) produced the entire series of 
Equal Rights and those volumes of the Suffragist missing from 
Alice Paul's collection^ negotiations are currently underway 
so that these In-party organs can be available to scholars 

The Suffragists Project as conceived by the Regional 
Oral History Office is to be the first unit in a series on 
women in politics. Unit two will focus on interviews with 
politically active and successful women during the years 1920- 
1970; and unit three, interviews with women who are Incumbents 
In elective office today. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape 
record autobiographical interviews with persons prominent In 
the history of the West and the nation. The Office is under 
the administrative supervision of James D. Hart, Director of 
The Bancroft Library. 

Malca Chall, Director 
Suffragists Oral History Project 

Amelia Pry, Interviewer-Editor 

Willa Baum, Department Head 
Regional Oral History Office 

2 January 197^ 

Regional Oral History Office 

4-b6 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 



BARY, Helen Valeska. Labor Administration and Social Security; 
A Woman's Life. 1974 

MATTHEWS, Burnita Shelton. Pathfinder in the Legal Aspects of 
Women . 1975 

PAUL, Alice. Conversations with Alice Paul; An Autobiography. 

RANKIN, Jeannette. Activist for World Peace, Women's Rights, and 
Democratic Government. 1974 

REYHER, Rebecca Hourwich. Working for Women's Equality. In Process 

The Suffragists; From Tea-Parties to Prison. 1975 

Thygeson, Sylvie, "In the Parlor" 
Butler, Jessie Haver, "On the Platform" 
deFord, Miriam Allen, "In the Streets" 
Seiler, Laura Ellsworth, "On the Soapbox" 
Kettler, Ernestine, "Behind Bars" 

VERNON, Mabel. The Suffrage Campaign, Peace and International 
Relations. 1975 



In October, 1972, Sherna Gluck came to the Regional Oral 
History Office to talk about plans for her newly organized 
women's history project, set up to "recreate what women were 
thinking and doing" during the years 1910-1930, particularly in 
the fields of suffrage, labor, and the professions. 

The building of such a collection of archival material and 
oral history interviews around what Sherna labels the "ordinary 
woman" deserved and received from Willa Baum and me great encour 
agement, and with it the mutual hope that we might be able to tie 
our projects together in some way in the future. Nothing was 
possible until funds for the Suffragists Oral History Project 
became available from the Rockefeller Foundation in April, 1973. 

By that time The Feminist History Research Project was a 
reality and many women had been interviewed, among them five 
suffragists. Because the focus of the Regional Oral History 
Office's project was aimed at the leadership of the suffrage 
movement, we welcomed the opportunity to have representation of 
the views of some rank-and-f ile suffragists; and we also appre 
ciated the opportunity to incorporate some of the more feminist 
directions in research that the woman's movement is taking. 

Thus, we were able to transcribe relevant excerpts of 
interviews from women we would otherwise have missed, and with 
Sherna Gluck 's editorial assistance, to produce a volume of 
memoirs which will be a valuable addition to the historical 
evidence of the suffrage movement. 

The sharing of information and ideas with Sherna has been 
a pleasant and stimulating experience during these past several 
years. The Office hopes to continue this fruitful cooperation 
as we move on to other aspects of women's history, particularly 
women in politics. 

Malca Chall 

Project Director 

Suffragist Oral History Project 


Sylvie Thygeson, now almost 107 years old, recalls the 
discussion of woman's suffrage that took place sixty years ago 
over tea in her parlor in St. Paul, Minnesota. Jessie Haver 
Butler, now 88, remembers watching her mother stump for suffrage 
in a horse-drawn wagon in Colorado in 1893. Some years later, 
the young Jessie Haver did the same thing — by train. Miriam 
Allen deFord, who died in March at the age of 85, began her career 
in the movement in 1904 by stuffing envelopes at suffrage headquar 
ters in Philadelphia. A few years later she was speaking to street- 
corner crowds from the top of a soapbox. Laura Seiler, now 83, 
spoke from atop soapboxes, horses, and the deck of a motorboat on 
the Hudson River. For the latter she used a megaphone to shout 
"votes for women" at unreceptive longshoremen on the docks. 
Ernestine Kettler, now 79, picketed for suffrage in front of the 
White House. That militant action earned her a jail sentence. 

These women, through their work in the suffrage movement, 
made a significant contribution to the continuing struggle for 
self-government in the United States. They, like most other 
women, were not famous or powerful, and so conventional history 
has paid little attention to them, or what they did, or how they 
felt. No official documents have chronicled their activities, 
no biographers have summed up their beliefs. The only record of 
their lives is in their memories, and the only method of preserving 
that record is the oral history interview. Recording and pre 
serving the memories of women like the unknown and unheralded 
suffragists included in this volume is one of the tasks of the 
Feminist History Research Project. 

An independent women's research and education organization, 
The Feminist History Research Project was founded in 1972 with 
the express purpose of recreating women's recent past in the 
United States through oral history documentation of the lives of 
"ordinary" women. Women's beliefs, values and practices are being 
documented through their own words and recollections in a series 
of ongoing projects on women in the United States, 1900-1930: 
Women as Unskilled Laborers; Women in the Labor Movement; Women 
at Home; Women in Business, Entertainment and the Professions; 
Suffragists and Feminists; Women as Reformers, Radicals, Revolu 
tionaries; and, Birth Control. Over 250 hours of interviews with 


women have been recorded to date. Additionally, "living history" 
educational programs are being created from these interviews. The 
first of these is a tape/slide program on the suffrage movement, 
a program which utilizes much of the interview material to be 
found in this volume. 

One of the first undertakings of the Feminist History 
Research Project at its inception in 1972 was the documentation 
of the lives of rank-and-file participants in the suffrage move 
ment. Since, at the time of their activity in that movement, most 
suffragists were past thirty years of age, few survive today. 
Thus, The Feminist History Research Project sought to interview 
every suffragist brought to its attention. The following year, 
the Regional Oral History Office provided funds to transcribe and 
edit portions of these interviews for inclusion in the Suffragists 
Oral History Project of The Bancroft Library. The five women 
selected for this volume represent a fairly wide range of experi 
ence in the suffrage movement in terms of their personal backgrounds, 
ideologies, and tactical approaches. 

In some ways these interviews provide historical insights 
that can be obtained in no other way. The facts and dates of the 
public record, no matter how accurate, cannot convey the complicated 
motivations and emotions of those who participated in a social move 
ment. The prominent leaders of the movement usually speak of 
high-level debates and decisions. But any account of the suffrage 
movement is incomplete and superficial without some understanding 
of the millions of women whose participation made woman's suffrage 
a reality. These interviews are part of the effort to increase 
that understanding. 

From the words of the participants themselves we can begin 
to appreciate the wide variety of reasons that women had for be 
coming involved in the suffrage movement. We can trace these 
motivations back to their origins in family background or childhood 
or ethical convictions. We can undertake to analyze the different 
ideologies within the suffrage movement; how they shaped the several 
suffrage organizations, attracted and affected the members and de 
termined the tactics adopted to achieve the final objective. We 
can follow the lives of the "ordinary" suffragist after passage of 
the Nineteenth Amendment and gain an understanding of how they 
related to other women's issues, and what happened to the suffrage 
movement as a whole. A more detailed discussion of these points 
will be found in the Summary which follows the five interviews. 


Included with each of the five interviews is an interview 
history which describes the background and setting, a brief 
biography of the interviewee, photographs and relevant source 
material, and an index of the transcript. 

The Feminist History Research Project would like to thank 
the women whose oral history interviews follow. They were, 
without exception, very generous of their time and their memories. 
We would also like to express our deep appreciation for the contri 
butions they have made to the evolving history of the American 
woman . 

Sherna Gluck, Director 

Feminist History Research Project 

April 1975 

P.O. Box 1156 
Topanga, California 


Feminist History Research Project Regional Oral History Office 

P.O. Box 1156 486 The Bancroft Library 

Topanga, California 90290 University of California, Berkeley 

Suffragists Oral History Project 

Sylvie Grace Thompson Thygeson 

Interviews Conducted by 

Sherna Gluck 
Ralda Sullivan 
Mary Shepardson 

1975 by The Regents of the University of California and 
The Feminist History Research Project 

Sylvie Grace Thompson Thygeson 

TABLE OF CONTENTS - Sylvie Grace Thompson Thygeson 


INTRODUCTION by Sherna Gluck 

Brief Biography 

Genealogy of Sylvie Thygeson 


Attitudes Toward Family Roles and Members 1 

Childhood in Illinois - 1868-1884 4 

Youth in St. Louis 10 

Marriage in St. Paul - 1891 11 

How She First Became Involved in the Suffrage and 

Birth Control Movements 15 

The Woman's Welfare League in St. Paul 18 

Her Philosophical Outlook: Evolutionists vs. 

Space Binders 21 

Her Work With the Birth Control Clinic 23 

Her Work with the Women's Welfare League 27 

Woman's Welfare League (Roster) 34 




The Birth Control Movement, St. Paul, Minnesota 36 

Relationship Between Birth Control Movement and the 

Suffrage Movement in St. Paul 38 

The Suffrage Movement Viewed as Educational and 

Evolutionary Process 40 

Family Background 45 

Social Concerns in California 47 

Reaction to Voting 50 

The Evolutionary Process: A World View 51 

The Progressive Roots 52 

The U.S.S.R, 1929 56 

The "Natural Superiority of Women: An Illusion" 57 

Attitudes Toward War 59 


INTRODUCTION by Sherna Gluck 

The following interviews with Sylvie Thygeson represent 
two distinct interviews conducted by different interviewers and 
for different purposes. The first interview was recorded by 
Ralda Thygeson Sullivan, a former granddaughter-in-law of Sylvie 's. 
The intention of this interview was to capture, as part of the 
family heritage, recollections about Sylvie 's life. Both Ralda 
and Sylvie treated the interview as part of the family relation 
ship and process. Hence, although much of the material focused 
on Sylvie ' s suffrage and birth control activities, the interview 
was basically an intimate family portrait, often dealing with 
Sylvie 's concern and feelings about her great grandchildren. 

At the time of the first interview in June, 1972, Sylvie 
Thygeson, 104 years old, was still living in her own home in 
the Palo Alto area where the interview was conducted. She suf 
fered from inoperable cataracts in both eyes, was deaf and rather 
frail. Despite these infirmities her mental condition was 
remarkable. The second interview was conducted in October, 1972, 
as part of The Feminist History Research Project. During the 
four-month interim, there had been a marked deterioration in 
Sylvie 's health and the family was forced to place her in a con 
valescent hospital. Although still mentally alert, she was less 
vigorous than earlier and her grasp of details was not as good. 
Despite this, and even though there is some repetition of material, 
the second interview provides an additional dimension, helping 
us to understand the thoughtprocesses and motivations of an old 

At 104, Sylvie Thygeson was one of those rare human beings 
who cared so much about language. She carefully chose and enun 
ciated every word. The transcription hardly conveys the quality 
of her language, but great care was taken by each interviewer 
while editing her own interview to preserve the quality of Sylvie 's 
expression and syntax. 

The editors were cognizant of the value of these interviews 
to gerontologists as well as historians. Therefore, little has 
been changed. The false starts and repetitions, the long, complex 

sentences have been punctuated to enable the reader to gain some 
sense of the language of this unusual woman. The entire manu 
script was carefully reviewed by Sylvie Thygeson's daughter, 
Mary Shepardson, who wrote the brief biography, developed a 
geneology and provided some explanatory footnotes (MTS) . She 
also participated in the second interview. 

December 1974 


Sylvle Grace Thompson was born on June 27, 1868 in a small 
town In Illinois, Forreston . She was one of eleven children, 
three of whom died in infancy. She attended school in Forreston 
until her father's death when she was sixteen years old. Her 
uncle, Judge Seymour Dwlght Thompson, took her from the funeral 
to his home in St. Louis, Missouri. There she learned typing and 
short hand and worked on her uncle's law cases and law books. Two 
years later she joined her mother and younger sisters and brother 
in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she worked as a stenographer until 
her marriage in 1891 to Nels Marcus Thygeson, a lawyer in the firm 
or Munn, Boyeson and Thygeson. Later her husband became the 
general counsel for the Twin City Rapid Transit Company with offices 
in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her first child, Ruth A. Thygeson was 
born on April 9, 1895. A son was bom on February 26, 189« and 
named for his Norwegian grandfather, Elllng. A second son, 
Phillips Baker Thygeson, was born on March 28, 1903 and a daughter, 
Mary was bom on May 26, 1906. 

It was during her residence in St. Paul, Minnesota, that 
Sylvle Thygeson was active in the birth control movement, the 
suffrage movement and was an officer of the Woman's Welfare League. 
Her husband died after a long illness of cancer in August of 191? 
and Mrs. Thygeson moved her family to California so that the 
four children could attend Stanford University. Ruth and Phillips 
became M.D.'s, Elling an engineer, and Mary, many years later, a PhD 
in Anthropology. When the cnildren were grown, Mrs. Thygeson joined 
her mother and two brothers in Los Angeles where she lived for 
twenty-five years until 19i>5 when she returned to jfalo Alto. She 
lived in Palo Alto for nearly 20 years when at the age of 10^- 
she was taken to live in a convalescent hospital. At the age of 
105 she is in the Whitcomb Convalescent Hospital in Menlo Park. 

Mary Thygeson Shepardson 

September 1973 
Box 25 Star Route 
Redwood City, California 

Sylvle Thygeson 

McKee married Lucinda Putnam, niece of 

Israel Putnam, general. 
Children of McKee and Luclnda 

Betsy McKee " Seymour Thompson 


Lyman " 

Elmira " 

Ardelia " 

Baker Maria 

Mary Ellen Baker t>. 18*1-5 James Conklin Thompson 

Ellas Baker 

Hiram Baker 

Scott Graham (son of Maria and Graham) 

Seymour Thompson and Betsy McKee' s children 

James Conklin Thompson Mary Ellen Baker 

Edward " 


Seymour Dwight " 

Charles (d. at 5 years; 

Charlotte Jeanette 

Children of James Conklin Thompson and Mary Ellen Baker (d. aged 101) 

Alice Eudora Thompson 

Charles Elmer 

Harriet Jeanette 

Sylvie Grace b. 1868 " Mels Marcus Thygeson 1891 

Mary Gertrude (d. 191?) 

Walter Henry (4- at 5 years) 

Elizabeth Maria 

Gladys Isola 

Edith Beatrice (d. child) 

Cicero Dwight (d. 2 days) 

James Spencer 

Children of Nels Marcus Thygeson and Sylvie Grace Thompson 

Ruth Adelaide Thygeson b. 1895 " Dwight Emerson Shepardson 

d. 19^0 

Elling Thygeson b. 1898 " Sophia Locke 193^ 
Phillips Baker Thygeson b. 1903 Ruth Lee Spllman 192**- 

Mary Thygeson b. 1906 " Dwight E. Shepardson 

(d. 1966) 

Children of Dwight E. Shepardson and Ruth A. Thypreson 
Barbara Anita b. 1925 

Children of Phillips Thygeson and Ruth Lee Spllman 

Frltjof Peder Thygeson b. 1930 " Ralda Lee Meyerson 1950 

(dlv. 1959) 
Kristin Thygeson b. 1935 Douglas Strong 1957 

Children of Frltjof Thygeson and Ralda Lee Meyerson 
Kristin Lee Thygeson b. 1952 
Nels Marcus Thygeson b. 1953 

Chllren of Douglas Strong and Kristin Thygeson 
Peder Strong b. 1959 
Beret Strong b. 1961 
Kore Strong b. 1962 

Prepared by Mary Thygeson Shepardson 

From Palo Alto Times, 15 May 1975 


Sylvie Thygeson 


^ Mrs. Sylvie Grace Thyge- 
•Oson, a suffragette and long 
flime Palo Alto resident, died 
^Tuesday in a Menlo Park 
(^convalescent hospital at 
•^lOG. She would have cele- 
Obrated her 107th birthday 
CJune 27. 

<t Mrs. Thygeson was a na- 
^tive of Forreston, 111. One of 
r; her ancestors was a soldier 
n the American Revolu 
ionary War and her grand 
father was a Presbyterian 
minister who maintained a 
station on the Underground 
Railway to help Southern 
slaves escape to Canada. 
Her father and three uncles 
fought in the CivH War and 
her mother received a Civil 
War pension until her death 
at 101. 

In 1891, Mrs. Thygeson 
married Nels Marcus Thy 
geson, the general counsel 
of the Twin -City Rapid 
Transit Company in Min 
neapolis, Minn. During her 
long residence in SU Paul, 
Mrs. Thygeson was active 
in the struggle for women's 
suffrage. She was chairman 
of the state Birth Control 
League and helped to es 
tablish a birth control clinic 
in the early 1900s. 

Her husband 'died in 1917 
in California. Mrs. Thyge 
son moved to Palo Alto to 
educate Her four children at 
Stanford University. After 
their graduations, she lived 
for 25 years in Los Angeles, 
returning to Palo Alto in 

She maintained a keen 
interest in world affairs and 
in progressive movements 
until her death. She was a 
member of the Plannec. 
Parenthood Association, 
the NAACP, and tht Ameri 
can Civil Liberties Onion. 

Surviving are three chil 
dren, EUing Thygeson, an 
engineer, of Seal Beach; Dr. 
Phillips Thygeson of Los 

Altos, formerly director of 
the Proctor Foundation for 
Ey,§J^esearch in San Fran- 
ciscoT* and Dr. M"STy" 
Shepardson, professor 
emeritus of California State 
University, San Francisco. 
Another daughter, Dr. Ruth 
Shepardson, died in 1940. 

Also surviving are three 
grandchildren and five 

At her own request, there 
will be no funeral services. 


May 22, 1975 

Dear Sherna: 

Mother died peacefully on. Kay 
1 3 at 6 P.M. in the tfhitcomb Convalescent 
Hospital in Menlo Park where she had been for 
two and a half years. ('This is not the one 
where you saw her.) She was lucid up until 
two days before her death and was able to recog 
nize Ruth Lee and me but felt too weak to 
talk much. She took matters into her own hands 
in the end and refused to eat. She told us 
that she was dying and asked us please not to 
interfere. The doctor had promised not to 
use any artificial measures to keep her alive 
so no one did'. Even so, the process took 
six weeks. 

I 'had told her when the war was over and 
she said, "Yes, I understand, you said the 
war was over. And that's good, isn't it?" 

I hope you got the picture I sent to the 
Bancroft Library. I guess it was for your 
use. Also, Ralda worried about your put tin.-; 
in some of the remarks about the family that 

^P?5 ar - eci ^J 161 - ta P e * 12 y° u notice, / &&fe f/ did 
noT~"induTge In any criticism of her family 
when talking to you. But Ralda, of course, 
was family and according to her code, you 
can say anything you please to your own rela 

Everyone has enjoyed your interview so 
much. Wasn't it a good thing that you did 
it when you did. Even a few months later 
she was much less able to discourse on world 
problems. Her vocabulary kept up to the 
last. About three days before she die*d she 
said she would "exonerate" me if I didn't 
come to see her any morel 

Thank you so much for your interest in 
Mother and your efforts to preserve her 

As ever, 



The interview took place at Sylvie Thygeson's home, 
2325 Cornell in Palo Alto, on June 4, 1972, just about three 
weeks before Mrs. Thygeson's 104th birthday. Although Mrs. 
Thygeson's sight and hearing had begun to diminish, she was 
still alert and able to move about her one-bedroom house. 
Later in the summer, Mrs. Thygeson moved from the house to a 
convalescent home after she had become ill and unable to sustain 
living alone. 

I first met Sylvie Thygeson in 1949 shortly before my 
marriage to Fritjof Thygeson, Sylvie "s grandson by her son 
Phillips. Kristen Lee Mara and Nels Marcus are Sylvie 's 
great-grandchildren from that marriage. Although, that 
marriage ended in divorce in 1959, Sylvie and I had become 
firm friends and continued to see each other over the years. 

The interview was occasioned by my growing sense of the 
passage of time and the value of Sylvie Thygeson's recollections 
of her post-civil war youth and active middle years as a leader 
of the birth control and women's suffrage movements. 

Ralda Sullivan 

August 1973 
Berkeley, California 


Attitudes Toward Family Roles and Members 

Thygeson i 

Have you ever read that play, Oscar Wilde's story on 
The Woman of No Importance? You ought to read that. 
This woman was relegated as a woman of no importance. 
Of course, she had at a moment of temptation and mad 
infatuation this illegitimate child. Her husband 
belonged to the upper class . This son of course was not 
taken over or brought up by her husband. He left the 
baby with her. She brought it up, reared it and he 
became prime minister of England. He had 
designated her once when she appeared somewhere — 
somebody asked who she was, and he said, "Oh, a woman 
of no importance. 11 

Sullivan » Her son said this? 

Thygeson i 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson i 

No, her lover, the father of her child. Her child 
that she loved and was devoted to and brought up became 
prime minister of England. 

Was the lover a lord or something like that? 

I've often thought of that. Who are really the prime 

You feel the mother is the prime influence. 

Yes, it was the mother. She had kept the son, reared 
it and he became prime minister. Then at a later time 
when this woman who was his mother was elevated to this 
high position in society because her son was prime 
minister, and the father who had been the one on the 
upper level was on the lesser level, and so forth. 
Oscar Wilde brought out that that was the "woman of no 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 

Thygeson : 
Sullivan 2 
Thygeson : 

Thygeson » 

Sullivan 2 
Thygeson t 

It isn't a question with children of where they 
belong; it's a question that they do belong here. I 
think the three children you have are very dear and 
wonderful children. I feel it isn't for us to say 
when things happen. I think you've done your part. 
I think that along the way, since you started out very 
brilliantly, certainly as an honor student there at 
Stanford. That was a great thing at the time that you 
were. It wasn't appreciated as much as it should have 
been . 

That has something to do with the woman's role. In 
my generation, in the fifties the girl was considered 
the one who would be the wife and mother, and if we 
married as students, which Prltjof and I did, then my 
role was to help him get ahead and help him get his 
PhD and teach school while he was doing that. 
| Frit jof Thygeson is Sylvie's grandson.] 

Well, he lacked the balance wheel. 
He really did. 

I think we have to recognize that and see that. I'm 
one that kind of looks at things in a very serious sort 
of way. I don't just assume things are this or that 
way. There are so many undercurrents that happen in 
our lives and influence us in doing one way or another. 
And of course many times they would be different. In 
my life I was terribly fortunate, because I got about 
the finest man in the world when I married. It was 
through no virtue of mine or anything. He Just fell in 
love with me, and it all worked out. 

How old were you at the time? 

He was Just everything that you wanted in a man. I 
look back and I think that although I felt I did 
appreciate him to a large extent I didn't know enough 
to appreciate him enough. He had to come from a farm 
and work his own way through college and up into his 
profession, and then in his profession up in the upper 
ranks where he stood in that. He was young when he died, 
so he could have gone on to greater things. 

Did he get an engineering degree too? 

Yes, he got that as well as his legal degree. 

Sullivan t 



Thygeson : 

Thygeson « 

Sullivan : 

Can you give me some dates, such as how old you and he 
were when you first met and where you were and the 
circumstances? That would be very Interesting. 

Since Marcus Is the namesake of his great grandfather — 
well, I don't know that there's anything that really 
matters very much. [Marcus Thygeson Is Frltjof's and 
Ralda's son.] He was Just this boy off the farm. He 
went first to a normal school when he was still working 
on the farm, graduated from that — a very high-grade 
normal school. Then he went to the university. 

Where was the farm that he grew up on. 

Was It In 

No, he came from Wisconsin, not far from St. Paul. He 
grew up on a farm. His father was a Norwegian farmer. 

And his mother too was Norwegian. 

He went to normal school, and he had to walk miles. 
But there was another boy in the nert farm, and these 
two boys hobnobbed; they were friends all their lives. 
They worked together and they both graduated from this 
normal school and then went on to the University of 

What was the other boy's name? 

Harold Harris. They were Damon and Pythias, those two 
boys, all their lives. They loved each other. They 
had associated ever since they knew anything about 
friendship of any kind. I look back on that, and 
one of the things that I bless myself for and sometimes 
get scared when I think about it, that I never Interfered 
with it. And I could have interfered with it, because 
they used to go off every Sunday. 

After your marriage? 

They went off on a shooting tour. They never shot a 
rabbit. My husband couldn't have killed a fly- He 
wouldn't have thought of killing anyone, an animal or 
anything. I never interfered with that, with their 
going off on Sundays although sometimes I had wanted 
him to stay at home. But they had been Inseparable 
since earliest boyhood. 

Marcus comes from very good stock, but I'm sure 
he does too on your side, and don't you forget your 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson t 

Sullivan t 


Sullivan : 

side of it, because you have that in the way you 
work out life, and your brothers. I don't want to 
elevate one side and depreciate the other. The fact 
that my grandchildren have Jewish blood in them Is all 
to the good. 

Yes, it's a very good combination. 

Because Jews have a high record down through history 
of accomplishment everywhere. 

I'll tell you more about my family, but I want to get 
yours down on this tape. You've told me things, but I 
want to get it down so I really remember It. I want to 
encourage you to talk about yourself. 

I think It's nice that children can have an idea that 
they come from very good stock. And I think with Marcus 
and, I call her Lili, of course what we know the most 
Is on their father's side. [LI 11 is a nickname for 
Kristin Lee Gara Thygeson, sister of Marcus, daughter 
of Frltjof and Ralda.l They have a great deal to be 
proud of on their father's side for what he has 
accomplished. But after it is all said and done It's 
what they do. Unless they make good, unless they do 
the work and accomplish things, what their ancestors 
did doesn't count at all. I think it's nice to feel 
that you have had some kind of foundation. But I never 
thought In my life that I could live off of my 
ancestors or feel that I could call on them for any 
praise for myself. 

I'd like to hear how you started out in Illinois and 
what your expectations were. 

Childhood in Illinois - 1868-1884 

Thygesont I don't know that there was anything particularly 

worthwhile. I was born In the little town of Porreston, 
a beautiful little town with white painted buildings 
and green roofs and green shutters, and very beautiful 
elm trees, and people loved flowers. Everybody had 
flowers . 

Sullivan: How many children were there and which one were you in 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson i 


the family? 

My mother brought up eight children, 
of us that grew up. 

Were you the oldest? 

There were eight 

I had two sisters older than I was. We were not any 
of us close together. My mother married at fifteen. 
So she had her children early. We were at least 
two years apart. As I tell Helena who is here with 
me, who was brought up an only child when her parents 
were advanced in years — they were in their early 
forties when she was bom, her father was over fifty 
but her mother was in her early forties — she doesn't 
know at all what the Joys of childhood are with brothers 
and sisters. [Helena Prosser was a companion hired 
to live with Sylvie.] 

You feel you had a happy childhood in Porreston, 

Oh, yes! Whatever were the vicissitudes of that 
childhood it was always interesting. We were always 
interested in what each other was doing. We had our 
quarrels and strife and all the things that belong to 
childhood, possibly our little Jealousies and things, 
I don't remember about that. I only know that I look 
back on a very happy childhood. 

My mother was young. The only sad thing I 
remember about my mother was that she was an inveterate 
reader. If she got a book to read maybe we had to wait 
around for our meals in a very sad kind of way while 
our mother was absorbed in this book. One time we did 
the terrible thing, we bought a set of Dickens. It 
was six volumes, I remember so well, green-bound with 
three columns on the page. We paid fifteen cents a month 
to buy this set of Dickens, and when we got that set, 
oh how we suffered I Because our mother just sat there 
reading Dickens. She was an inveterate reader. She 
read all of George Eliot, all The Scottish Tales, 

I reproached her. She lived with me twenty-five 
years before she died. I reproached her many times 
about that terrible time when she sat there and read and 
was absorbed in those books. She read only good books. 


Sullivan : 


Thygeson : 

They were the books we brought her from school 
libraries, and so on. 

And you yourself began reading that quality literature 
at an early age? 

Yes. They were the books we brought in from the 
school library: George Eliot, The Scottish Tales, we 
had many German translations of very fine 
authors, things that we got from the Lutheran 
Church library. 

Were you in the Lutheran Church? 

We had no religion. In the whole town we were the only 
family that were atheists. 

Sullivan: How did your family become atheists? 

Sullivan : 

Thygeson : 


I don't know, because my grandfather Thompson was a 
Presbyterian minister. 

Was he the one who assisted slaves on the Underground 

Yes. And my mother's family were religious too. But 
my mother and father were not. We were brought up with 
no religion. 

What did your father do for a living? 

He was a small town lawyer. It amounted more to what 
today would be a Justice of the peace, because no one 
went to law in those days to work out any case, but in 
real estate deals and all kinds of things my father 
settled these things. But he was a white collar — 
he earned his living in a white collar way. We often 
had a precarious living. We never went hungry, because 
we always had a big garden in summer time. There was a 
lot of land, and everything was cheap. We had plenty of 
place to grow things. We raised chickens and everything, 
You had a lot of opportunity to earn one's living. So 
we never went hungry. We often didn't have much 
money to spend. 

So you experienced being poor and being different 
from the other children. 


Sullivan : 


Sullivan : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

Being poor In this little town where I lived was a very 
different matter from being poor in a big city. For 
instance, one of the things was that we were never 
without milk, because people had cows. There was 
plenty of land and pasture for anybody to have a cow 
that wanted it. There was always milk, always milk 
to be given away. So all we would ever have to do 
would be to go after milk. 

How about clothes? 

My mother was very thrifty. She knew how to fashion 
things and sew. As we were all girls for so many 
years except for this one boy, and this beautiful 
material we call calico was only five cents a yard. 
And so in the summer time at least we always had what 
we tnought were very pretty dresses, because my 
mother could fashion them. In the winter time you 
always had one or two very heavy woolen salts . Our 
winter coats my mother made. They were lined with 
blanket material, the kind we used on our beds. They 
were very warm. We lived in a cold climate. 

Was this southern Illinois, or northern. 

No, In the middle. I don't ever remember a time when 
we were hungry. It was never for any length of time 
that could leave an impression on our minds. In 
summer we had plenty of ground for gardens. My 
mother was very thrifty. We were too. We were taught 
to be a help in the garden and do things. 

Did the fact of your parents being atheists make you 
feel left out of the town socially? 

Yes, that was a problem socially. We overcame that by 
standing the highest in school. We were always on top. 
We always carried away all the honors. When we had a 
contest between the next town, which was a little larger 
than ours, we had a literary contest, my brother and I 
were both on the program. They couldn't leave either 
one of us off. 

What did you do on the program? 

I recited a wonderful poem that I still remember today. 
It was called "The Knight and the Page." I think it 


Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

has a large number of verses, six lines in every verse. 
My brother was on the debating team. So two of us out 
of our family were on that special competing team. No, 
they never could leave us out intellectually, because 
we were always there, all of us. There was not one of 
our family that fell behind scholastically. So when 
it came to taking a back seat, as you would have to if 
you were, what we called in those days, "dumb," we 
never were "dumb" in my family. I carried off the 
honors in that wonderful contest we had with the next 
town . 

The next to the oldest in the family was a boy, 
and also the youngest. My youngest brother was bom 
long after the oldest members of the family. They 
were away and married before my youngest brother was 
born . 

No, my childhood was a happy one. 

Do you want to tell about your schooling, how far you 
went in school and how you went to live with your 
uncle? How far did you go? 

I graduated from high school. The high school was Just 
as high a high school as we have them today, in that 
town where I lived. It was a kind of literary town. 
I taught when I graduated. My country school began a 
month before I graduated from high school. Bat they 
gave me my certificate. My father died that fall that 
I graduated from high school and taught that school. 
My uncle came and took me down to St. Louis. 
While I was down there I had a wonderful time. It 
was a wonderful time of mental and spiritual awakening. 
My uncle was a judge of the appellate court in St. 
Louis. He was a law book writer. 

What was his name? 

Seymour D. Thompson. He was one of the editors of The 
American Law Review. I was there two years. It was a 
wonderful experience. Progress and awakening 
and opening up of the mind. My uncle was a traveler. 
He went abroad after his duties were over. I worked 
verifying the cases that he cited. I had quite a lot 
of experience in what there was. 

They lived in a great big, three- story, white, 

Thygeson t stone-front house on one of the most beautiful streets 
in St . Louis . We had three servants in the house doing 
the work with a man outside cleaning the front steps and 
doing the work around. I became one of my uncle's 
helpers . 

My father died the year I was sixteen.* My 
uncle came down to the funeral and took me back to 
St. Louis with him. I had those two years of very 
great awakening. My aunt was away at school with my 
two girl cousins. She went away to where her sister 
was living in Elton, Illinois. It was a semi-preparatory 
college school. I don't remember any more just what the 
name was . They went off to school and their mother 
went with them. She was away quite a bit of the time. 

Sullivan: Was this uncle your father's brother? 

Thygeson : Yes . 

Sullivan: What were your duties? 

Thygeson: I wrote the opinions of the court and of all the things 
that were interesting. Now I'm telling you what my own 
children have never been interested in. They've never 
been interested in knowing, whatever my past life has 
been. It was a very Interesting life. I was a person 
that had the ability to have some kind of awakening 
intellectually, like you have. My children haven't had 
this or Interest in me. To them I've Just been like 
"The Woman of No Importance." They haven't been at all 
interested in what I did or accomplished or anything. 
I had all that wonderful life and what I call awakening. 
I was bom with Intellectual parents. My father was what 
you would call an Intellectual in the town where we 
lived. We were brought up to love good books, and 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

What were your father's Interests? 
My father was a small town lawyer. 

What did he like to read and what did he like to talk 

*c. 188^. M.T.S. 


Thygeson : 



He talked a lot about politics. We took the Chicago 
In tejr- ocean . In our most poverty-stricken days we took 
the Chicago daily paper. We were 130 miles from Chicago. 
That came out every morning on the morning train that 
was going down south. My father got it. He used to 
read that paper walking the floor. We might be still 
sitting at the breakfast table. We always kept abreast 
of the news. I always had an Intellectual home life. 

Did you have music in the home, or art? 

Yes, I have to tell about the wonderful thing that 
happened in our house. We became the owners of a 
secondhand piano, old-fashioned square rosewood piano. 
There were only three or four pianos in the town where 
I lived. So it was a wonderful distinction to own a 

How did you get that? 

I don f t know where we acquired it. My father acquired 
it in some business deal. My older sisters learned 
to play some simple pieces. Not one of us were 
musicians. We didn't take to music. 

The only thing about this at all valuable for my 
great-grandchildren is the Intellectual awakening. 
I think the same with them. It's the Intellectual 
awakening they get, it's the going to school and what 
they are doing. I think we hear from Marcus and get 
these wonderful letters from him. That's the process 
he's going through now. Where he's moving around and 
doing these things he's getting a kind of Intellectual 
awakening, and I think that's terribly important. So 
I am very happy about it . I think your two children 
are wonderful children. They don't take a back seat 
at all to anyone. 

Youth in St. Louis 


Do you want to tell about your Intellectual awakening 
in St. Louis and what you discovered, who you met? 

My uncle had all the volumes of Illustrated Shakespeare. 
They had a little table which I remember where when 

10 a 


Sullivan i 
Thygeson : 

Sullivan i 
Thygeson : 

you wanted to read one of these wonderful books that 
were quite huge you put it out on this table and there 
was a chair by that. You sat at that table and you read 
this Shakespeare. And that was the way I read 
Shakespeare, quite a bit of It. I became very familiar 
with Othello and all the different ones. 

My two years In St. Louis were a wonderful spiritual - 
in a way, an intellectual and cultural kind of a relation 
ship. I was just at that age where I was open to it all. 

How did you get interested in social causes? 

I wasn't interested in social problems at that time. 
They weren't being agitated in the same way at all. My 
cousin George, who was nineteen years old, was a medical 
student. The Missouri Medical School was located in 
St. Louis. 

I went all over when I had any time in the evening. 
I worked many evenings, but when I did have time George 
and I went to all these different lectures on theosophy, 
spiritualism, and all kinds of things. We went to 
seances where they materialized in spiritualism. One 
time we went we had to link little fingers with everybody 
around the table, the lights were out, there was supposed 
to be a three-year old boy that had died years ago who 
belonged to one of the people at our table. He was 
materialized and floating in space. It was a very 
noted spiritualist who conducted these. They don't 
allcw them any more, you know. 

What did you think of that? 

We went to everything and had all that experience. We 
Just did everything. My cousin George, of course, was 
open to that. He was a medical student. He went later 
to Leipzig, Germany to study medicine before he became 
a doctor. We had a wonderful time, and as I say it 
had a great deal to do with my education and my whole 
outlook on life. 

My family have never had the slightest interest 
in this. I don't know whether they think I'm inferior, 
but I've never been elevated in any way. I'm Just in 
the background all along the way. I don't know that 
I've wanted to be in any other part. It's Just that 
some way or other I would like to have been recognized 


Thygeson: as s. person who made some contribution to what has been 
done . 

But they have not been Interested In any of the 
dramatic side. It was very dramatic all the way what 
I went through. My two years living In kind of a 
mansion, because my uncle's house was very beautifully 
furnished with the mocha fmohalr? MTS.[] carpets In the 
great salons they had. They had these beautiful gold- 
framed pictures hanging on the sides of the large 
livin groom. I was living In great luxury. They had 
two regular servants who did the work and a man who did 
the outside work. I was living in kind of a luxury 
there and in an atmostphere that I had never lived 
in. I had come out of this little town in Illinois , 
It was a wonderful experience. 

Sullivan i Did it make you desire to be wealthy? 

Thygeson: No. My whole desire while I was there — because I 

couldn't have had any other kind, living with the people 
I was living with — was a great desire to acquire, to 
learn and to do something. My uncle valued learning. 
He was bom a little boy back in the wilds of Iowa. 
His father was a Presbyterian minister and was burned 
to death in a prairie fire. My uncle and my own father 
and there were two other brothers had to make their own 
way. But they were all on the Intellectual order. 
They didn't work by hand or anything. But my uncle 
was the one who succeeded more, of course. 

Marriage in St. Paul - 1891 

Thygeson t 

Did you meet Marcus in St. Louis? 

I was going out to a lecture. I had to be 
back. I was going up to take a friend of mine 
out who was engaged. She was going up in the 
elevator. She had told us about this very nice man. 
I was going to the same lecture. It was a lecture 
on Shakespeare. Ingersoll was lecturing, Robert G. 
Ingersoll. We had to go back up. I forgot something. 
As we went up this young man stepped into the elevator. 
I whispered to Mrs. Burns, "That's Mr. Thygeson. " 
He was going to take out this very Intimate friend 
of mine who was engaged and whose lover (she was engaged 
to be married) was away and they had tickets, and so 


Thyegson: she asked him to fill in and use Bob's tickets. 

He heard me saying, "That's Mr. Thygeson." He 
heard me whispering this to her. He looked at me and 
he says — I don't know how true It was, that when he 
looked at me he said to himself that that was the 
girl he was going to marry. He always asserted that 
that was really true. I discounted it when he was 
telling me this. 

Sullivan: How old was he? And how old were you? 

Thyegson i 

Sullivan t 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan i 
Thygeson : 

I think he was twenty-five or twenty-six. I was twenty- 
three at the time I was married. I wasn't married 
young. But as far as attention was concerned I had 
had the usual amount of attention. I was reasonably 
interesting as a person. I had a number of friends 
I was more or less intimate with. 

How about that man you were going to marry who was 
going to set up restaurants or something, and your 
uncle talked you out of it. 

That was many years before that. I was Just this young 
girl at that time, only sixteen years old. Oh yes. He 
was one of the boys that came out when I was teaching 
school out in the country. Yes, he was in my life. 
Oh no, my uncle Interfered with that. He said, "NO," 
right away. He said I wasn't fitted for that life. 
He sent him back. 

What was it he was going to do? 

He went out to Broken Bone, Nebraska. He was going to 
establish a restaurant out there first of all. I met 
him in this small town where I lived. He was very 
dear and nice. I really did care a lot about him. 
He was a very nice boy. He came from a nice family. 
His mother had been a nice person. 

But my uncle said that I was totally unfitted for 
that type of life --which I was, being this cripple, 
having this bad ankle, and never brought up to anything 
like that, never brought up to hard work. On account 
of my sprained ankle I had never been brought up doing 
housework. My older sisters did that. 

Sullivan i What happened to your ankle? 



Thygeson t 

Sullivan t 
Thygeson : 
Sullivan : 

Thygeson : 


I was hastening along to school. I was going to have 
my examinations for high school. At a very early age. 
I was only twelve years old when I went Into high 
school. I Just kind of twisted my ankle, sprained It. 
We didn't have proper doctors. Afterwards I fell over 
on It and broke a bone in It. I had a lot of trouble. 
Oh yes, I cared a lot for that young man. He was very 
nice. But of course I was totally unfitted for that 
type of life, and It would have turned out disastrously. 
I don't know, though. I often think about It, because 
out In this section of Nebraska where he was going to 
locate afterwards gold mines were developed, and people 
became very wealthy. This man I was engaged to became 
very wealthy. 

Were you very upset when your uncle broke that up? 

No, I wasn't upset at all. I was going Into a new and 
very wonderful life. Because my life down at my 
unc-le's In St. Louis was like a dream world to me. I 
was living in luxury and what was a palace to me. It 
would be pretty nearly a palace today, not anything 
I'd ever lived in, with all the beautiful gold-framed 
mirrors, the carpets, the large rooms. 

Did you meet your husband in St. Louis? 

No, I met my husband in an elevator in St. Paul. 

How did you get to St. Paul? 

When I went from my uncle's my mother came to St. 
Paul from where she was living In our little town 
after my father died. She wanted me to come back to 
St. Paul and live there at home. She wanted me at home. 
She wanted me to get a Job there in St. Paul and have 
the family united. I had one little .brother and two 
little sisters. I was homesick too. I was devoted to 
my little brothers and sisters and to my mother. So it 
wasn't too hard to leave where I was, though it was 
entirely different. I came and I got a Job. 

What kind of a Job? 

Stenography. I had learned stenography and typewriting 
at my uncle's In order to do work for him. I was quite 
proficient, because I had done the opinions of the court. 

Did you write them or did you take them down from 


Sullivan t 
Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson t 

Sullivan : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

I took them from dictation. They were the opinions 
of the appellate court. They were very interesting, 
every one of them. All my work was always interesting. 
I was always alive to it. But I wanted to come home. 
I was very homesick. So I came home and I was there 
with my mother in St. Paul until my mother left to go 
down to where my sister was living, where she estab 
lished a kind of business down there. I didn't go 
down. I got a job at $100 a month, which was a 
fabulous sum at that time. I got that in stenography 
and typewriting. 

It wasn't so long after that that I met my 
husband. We were only engaged five weeks when we were 
married. There wasn't any reason in the world why we 
shouldn't be married. He was without a home and I was 
without a home . There was every reason when we fell 
in love why we shouldn't be married and establish a 
home . It would have been strange to have gone on being 
engaged for a long time. 

You met him in the elevator and five weeks later you 
were married? 

Well, I didn't meet him In the elevator. I saw him 
there. Oh no, I met him later on. I met him in his 
own office. 

How did that happen? 

I went in there on some errand for the people I was 
working for. He was with a firm of lawyers, Munn, 
Boyesen and Thygeson. He was already established in 
his profession. He had his own private office. 

Was Boyesen related to the writer, H. H. Boysen? 

Boyesen was another Norwegian who was in the firm. 
Mr. Munn was the senior partner in the firm. 

Do you know the name, H. H. Boysen, a Norwegian writer 
In America? 

Oh yes, I know Boysen is a writer coming from Norway. 
He was a noted person . Boysen is not an unusual name 
in Norway. Thygeson is a very unusual name. 

Sullivan: Is it part Danish? 


Thygeson i Nobody knows any Thygesons. 

Sullivan: Didn't they come originally from Bergen In Norway? 

Thygeson: They came from Denmark originally. 

Sullivan i And then lived in Norway? 



I don't know that anybody knows too much about the 
origin of those names. It was not a common name. 
There was no other Thygeson in St. Paul except my 
husband. There was no other Thygeson in Los Angeles. 
There was never but one that they ever heard of in New 
York City. That's why I was always worried when 
Frit j of [her grandson] got his name into considerable 
prominence, because Thygeson was a very unusual name 
and you have to be very careful how you use an unusual 
name. There was never any other Thygeson in St. Paul, 
and we stood out . Fortunately, my husband stood high 
in the ranks, and so we never had to worry. 

Of all the people in the whole world there never 
was a nicer, kinder or more capable man than my 
husband. So your children have a wonderful great 
grandfather. You never need to be sorry that you named 
Marcus after his great-grandfather. He stood high in 
his community, high in other ways than his ability 
which was very good, but he stood for everything that 
was good and worthwhile. 

Do you want to tell about his attitudes and the sorts 
of things he did stand for? 

He was too busy a man to be out doing any saving the 
world. He was too busy in his law practice. They 
were a very noted firm, a very busy firm. But he stood 
for everything that was good; he stood for woman's 
suffrage and birth control and all these things that 
were good. 

How She First Became Involved in the Suffrage and Birth 
Control Movements 

Sullivan t 

How did you get interested and get started on woman's 
suffrage and birth control? 


Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

Thygeson « 

Sullivan r 

Thygeson : 

I think always I was interested in that. My mother 
was always interested in woman's suffrage. Way, way 
back, when my mother was young there were women working 
for suffrage. 

What did they do? How did they go about it? 

They talked it . They gave some lectures and did things 
in a way that people took part in some things that 
required women. My mother never had the time to take 
part in those things because she had too many children, 
but she was interested. It was Just one of those things- 
like it was in your family. 

If your children are brought up in an open-minded 
family where you discuss everything. It Isn't that you 
Just instill special principles in them. You know how 
it works with your children. You gave them a large 
outlook. You gave them anything that came along, 
everything they were able to investigate, look Into, 
read about, study, one of those open-minded sorts of 
atmosphere, Intellectual atmosphere where people are 
not limited. 

What were you most interested in at that time, back 

In St. Paul? What social problems most interested you? 

I was Interested In every kind of social problem that 
came my way. 

You worked for woman's suffrage and birth control. 

Yes, I stood out. I was a little more aggressive 
than some of the people that I was associated with. 

How did you get into the birth control movement? 

I guess I was kind of born into it. I know that when 
Margaret Sanger and some of the women that came out 
publicly worked for it on a large scale it was the most 
natural thing in the world for me to Join it and to go 
along with it as I did with what I thought were the 
progressive things at the time. 

My husband was always progressive. We Just went 
along. I don't know that I especially adopted anything. 
It's Just like I think you've gone along with progressive 
things. You were Just advanced. You didn't definitely 


Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan » 
Thygeson i 

Sullivan i 
Thygeson : 
Sullivan t 

take up any special thing and say, "I'm going to do 
this or that." You Just went along with the people 
and associated with the people that did the things that 
you wanted to do and that you liked, and that was the 
way I did. 

Of course when I met my husband he was a progressive 
man. He liked me and he liked the way I did things. 
He was interested in my society and what I had to say 
and the things we talked about . We always had very 
interesting subjects to discuss at the table. He 
discussed things and I discussed things. I brought 
things to talk about and he brought things to talk about . 
Just one of those things where people who think they're 
intelligent, at least, sit at a table and converse, 
like you and I If we wanted to converse on special 

Do you want to tell how you would spend a typical day 
when you were first married? 

I don't know that I could do that, because I spent so 
many days that were either alike or that they were Just 
what came along. Of course, I belonged to certain 
groups . We were working hard for the suffrage movement . 
The part I played in suffrage was, I think, a really 
good one. You had these little afternoon gatherings of 
women. You had a cup of tea. A little social gathering. 
While we were drinking tea I gave a little talk and 
they asked questions about what was going on. It was a 
lot better, I thought at the time, than to have a 
lecture. Because a lot of them wouldn't go to a lecture. 
I took my own neighborhood when I went out and did that 

Did you have them to your house for tea? 

No, I went to their houses. They had a little afternoon 
tea Just to hear me talk. 

How many women would turn out. 

Oh, there might be six or eight women in the group. 

What kind of questions? 

They asked all kinds of questions. I don't remember 
exactly. They were usually quite intelligent questions 


Thygeson: as to what was being done, who was doing It, who was 
prominent at the time, things like that. I was, of 
course, enthusiastic, so I answered. I didn't think of 
putting over anything. I had no feeling that I was 
important in any way. We just met. It was a very nice, 
interesting social time for meeting people and enjoying 
ourselves. I don't remember anything but being very 
happy about it and feeling that when I went out and spent 
an afternoon that it was worthwhile. It was what I 
could do. I couldn't have gone out on the lecture 
stage . 

Then, of course, one of the big things we did was 
this Woman's Welfare League. 

The Woman's Welfare League in St. Paul 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 
Sullivan : 

Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

Yes, tell about that. You were the first vice-president 

Yes, it was incorporated. It was large enough to be 
incorporated and we gave a luncheon every Saturday at 
noon to a hundred women . 

Who were these women? 
Any women that came in. 
Were they poor women? 

They were women that were downtown. This was downtown 
in St. Paul. We had a very beautiful place to have 
this dinner, the second floor of this place that had 
glass on two sides. We had twenty-five tables. 

What happened at these luncheons? 

We had someone who came through St. Paul lecture. It 
was never any special person lecturing. One time it was 
David Starr Jordan. It was very prominent people from 
the East. 

Sara Bard Field, was she one of these people that came 

Yes, she was connected with a very wealthy group of 


Sullivan : 

women in the East that were promoting woman's suffrage. 
She came and she lectured to the Women's Welfare League. 
I toted her around. I had a seven-passenger Cadillac 
car. I toted all the suffrage people around from one 
place to another. Then we had big banquets. There 
might be a hundred persons at the banquet. Then we had 
some very prominent speaker. 

We took our husbands to these banquets. I 
remember one time, at one banquet especially, how 
inordinately proud of my husband I was when he looked so 
wonderful and Intellectual that night. He got up and 
spoke. He spoke forcefully. He spoke about the 
suffrage movement. He said they should long have had 
suffrage. They should never have been without it. It 
was a highly Intelligent talk that he gave. I was 
very proud of him. Everybody, all my friends, admired 
him and liked him . He was a very likable person . 
He was not only Intelligent and advanced in his ideas. 

My son, Phil, and my son, Elling, I don't know 
how they ever grew up, living in the atmosphere that 
they did, as they have grown up. Not that they haven't 
accomplished in a certain part of the world. Of 
course, my son, Phil, as you know, his name is known 
all over the world.* In every part of the world there 
are clinics. Comparatively recently a clinic was 
established in Samoa where there was an outbreak. He 
went down there and established this clinic and left a 
young doctor coming out from here who was in charge 
of it. He has done inestimable work when it comes to 
the discovery that he made of the cure of blindness. 
Many people he has saved from blindness. So I forgive 
him for what I consider his narrow-minded or reactionary 
ideas along social lines. 

What else were your husband's ideas on social problems? 

He didn't have any social problems of his own. He was 
much too busy a man in his profession. He went everywhere 
with me. He believed entirely in woman's suffrage. 
There never was a question with him about suffrage 
or any of those things. He was Just as free and open- 
minded a man as you can think of — Just like you are 

*Phlllips Thygeson is an eminent ophthalmologist 



Sullivan i 

Thygeson : 
Thygeson i 

as a person. You don't have to start and figure out 
and think about when it comes to these larger social 
questions. You're just a part of them. Of course, 
I've always recognized that in you. I'm sorry that my 
sons, neither one of them, are that large and open- 

minded like their father and I were, 
queerer things of life. 

It's one of the 

Were some of the people you knew opposed to wom^i's 
suffrage? Did you get some bad reactions from other 
men and other women? 

We had a lot of people who came in. We allowed every 
one to come in and speak for and against. 

What kind of reactions against woman's suffrage did 
you get? 

They came and listened. There was never any bad 
reaction . The people who came to those lectures were 
intelligent people who wanted to know what was going 
on in the world. It was all a part in our lives of 
education. Just as I think it probably is today when 
our young people go out among these things. Only there 
aren't these special questions that come up like 

women's suffrage and birth control, 

Those have all been 

You're that kind of an intelligent mother that 
you've brought your children up to openly consider 
these things and want to hear about them and do about 
them. I told both Lill and Marcus never to criticize 
their mother. I said that that's a bad habit to get 

Sullivan : I appreciate that very much. 


Sullivan : 


It's just a bad habit to get into. Because your 
mother treasured you, brought you up, and she's given 
you very advanced ideas, and don't start in criticizing. 
When you start criticizing you don't get anywhere. 

Did you feel critical of your mother when you were 

No, my mother was very advanced in her ideas. She 
always was ahead of her time. She married when she was 
fifteen, but she was very bright, and she was a great 
reader. When my mother died at 101 she was a highly 


Thygeson « intelligent woman. She knew what was going on all over 
the world. I asked her on her deathbed — those last 
days she had were spent at the hospital, she had had 
that broken hip — what she thought of the world and 
the way it was going because I valued her opinion. 

She hadn't the good eyesight that I have; she 
listened a great deal to the radio, to all kinds of 
opinions, and so forth. She said that we were going on 
to worse things. We were in no position where we were 
going to right some of the wrongs in the world. There 
was going to be this upheaval. And, of course, we've 
gone into these wars since then. 

I don't think we're on the road to Improvement at 
all. If we're on the road to anything we're on the 
road to worse things, because we've got very blind 
people that are running our government and no highly 
intelligent, bright-minded people who really want the 
world to be better running It in high places. 

Her Philosophical Outlook: Evolutionists vs. Space Binders 

Sullivan: What hope do you see for the world? 


The world always was in turmoil. You have to view the 
world from the evolutionary point of view. Don't Just 
view it from the Nixon administration and things like 
this. You have to analyze how far we've gone from 
Neanderthal Man up to the present time, remembering 
that in the time of the Neanderthal Man they Just picked 
up a stone and knocked the brains out of anyone next 
to them, when they didn't like them. 

Now we try them and put them in prison, and if we 
don't like what they're thinking or doing we keep 
them there as long as we can. We're going on and doing 
all those things against our fellow creatures, but 
we're doing it in a little better way. What I would 
like you to do with your children would be to look at 
the world from the evolutionary point of view, not 
Just how It is today but the direction In which we're 
going and then play your part in that direction. 

Sullivan » What direction would you like to see? 





People will always go on progressing and learning, 
learning how better to live together, and also to regulate 
more the property of the world, the people of the world, 
not breed too many children. There are many more than 
we can take care of financially. Do things that we 
already have learned are very sensible. You know as 
much as I do about that, because you have all these 
progressive ideas. You're not sitting back there in a 
vacuum waiting to be told what to do. You know a lot 
of things. You have brought up two very nice children. 
Just to what extent you have succeeded in enlarging 
their vision of evolution — that's what we always have 
to proceed in. No, remember that. It's the evolu 
tionary point of view. 

You make little changes here and there In the 
government that we think are for the better and for 
people, but in the long run for the advancement of the 
world it has to be from the evolutionary point of view. 
The question is whether in your life here you have 
helped to advance that evolutionary point of view, 
played your little part in it, or whether . . . 

It's like that man that wrote this book. 
Kowinsky — he was an engineer from Poland. He wrote 
a book called The Manhood of Humanity. He said that 
in this world we are all evolutionists or space 
binders. He said the great masses of people in the 
world are just space binders, that all they really 
contribute to the world is to fill up space living, 
that there is only a certain per cent of them that are 
evolutionists, that want to project something into the 
future that's more worthwhile. It's a wonderful book. 

Did you think you were working for evolution when you 
were very young? Were you conscious of your ideas of 
working for evolution when you were in your twenties? 

No, I just felt we live in a world of evolution. I 
always believed in evolution. I thought Kowinsky' s 
idea was one that Illustrated more than anything what I 
thought about life. Are we evolutionists that have 
helped forward the world? By the children we've produced 
or by what we've done have we made a definite contri 
bution, or are we Just sitting there In space and 
existing? You can't restrict them, because they're 
away from you and not a part of you. In my family. I 
think Mary fShepardson] is carrying on in a very fine 
way in her teaching of anthropology, the story 


Thygeson: man and man's place In the world. I wish she had a 
little more of the evolutionary point about it, as I 
think I have . 

Her Work With the Birth Control Clinic 



Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 


Could we go back a bit and talk about the birth control 
movement, because Mary has a note here that the birth 
control movement was criminal. I'd like to know what 
your ideas were in going into it, and what you did, 
and how you organized. 

It was the most natural thing in the world to go into 
birth control. I limited my own family. We were 
married four years before I had a child, and then my 
children were three years apart. I wasn't plunging into 
a large family. We limited and I believed in that 
limited birth control for every family. I went along 
with Margaret Sanger. 

We established the clinic, myself and two other 
women . Women had access to the information that would 
help them limit their families. Women didn't know in 
those earlier days anything about family limitation, 
and the only way they could practice family limitation 
was by abstention. You know that many people aren't 
capable of abstention. I can't blame them or anything 
like that, because they're born that way. They can't 
mind or anything interfere — I think it's especially 
difficult in a way for men, who shouldn't be too much 
blamed about things. So I thought it was necessary, 
and Margaret Sanger thought it was, to give women the 
information where they could limit this on their own. 

What kind of information did you give? 

She has her book, you can buy the Margaret Sanger book. 

What did you do in the clinic? 

I couldn't tell about it or anything. She has her very 
definite ways of limiting, of preventing pregnancy. 

Do you remember how the clinic was organized, how you 
set about that and who you did it with? 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 

Sullivan : 

A group of women in my town, women of standing In the 
community, that is, whose husbands had some kind of 
standing. We established the Birth Control Clinic. 
Margaret Sanger came and lectured to us. We accepted 
her Ideas and believed in it. We ourselves had had no 
difficulty in limiting our families. One of these 
women had only one child, of the three women of us 
that established the clinic. Mrs. Alice Bacon, one 
of my friends, had four children, and I had four. 

The other was Grace Keller. 

We had them because we wanted them. I didn't have any 
children that I didn't want. We wanted all the children 
we had. My husband was very fond of children, and 
he would have been the most disappointed man in the 
world if I had not wanted children. He loved children. 
I don't know if I lived it over again if I would have 
had four children . But at that time we thought we 
were amply able to support four children. We thought 
it was very nice to have them. They were not close 
together. Some of them were five years apart. I think 
maybe the only one of the children who was what you 
might call an accident was Mary. But Mary was born out 
of a great affection. Her birth was inevitable in 
a way, I think. 

My husband was very fond of children. He Just loved 
them. He would have loved his grandchildren and great- 
gran, dc hi Idr en if he had lived. He would have loved 
them beyond measure. He would have been terribly 
disappointed if he hadn't had children. I wouldn't 
have dared to live my married life without children. 

These women who came to the Birth Control Clinic, 
were they lower class women? Were they poor women? 

These two women and I established the clinic, then got 
these doctors to associate with us. You couldn't do 
anything without the doctors. We had two doctors, 
very fine, wonderful, high-spirited men. They sanctioned 
the birth control movement and said they would work 
with us. One of these men we never knew if he was a 
bachelor or what he was. He was not married, no 
wife at the time. Just what he had gone into, or what 
it was we never knew. The other man had a wife and 
four children. He was very much in favor of having 
birth control. So he gave out information at the 
clinic without any fanfare or difficulty at all. 




Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 

I went through all kinds of things. I had my name 
written up editorially in the big newspaper of St. 

What did they say? 

Denouncing me. It was a criminal offense in those 
days to practice "birth control. Our clinic was against 
the law. You couldn't buy birth control material in 
the stores anywhere. 

So how could anybody get it? 

You couldn't carry around anything like that. I had 
to rely on my husband's prestige in the community. 
He had real prestige. They would have thought a long 
time before arresting me on birth control with my 
husband in the position he was. Then, besides, a lot 
more people were beginning to believe in it and think 
it was the right thing. But when I was doing it it was 

What years was this? 

I'd have to go back and figure. You see, I'm one 
hundred and four now, and it would have been way back, 
I think this was in my early days when I was in my 
late thirties. So it would be seventy years or 
more back. 

Around 1900, 1902. * 

It was illegal. Women practiced it, of course, but 
they practiced it in the privacy of their lives. It 
wasn't open to the general public. All kinds of women 
who didn't have birth control had to go on having these 
unwanted children and have too many. 

Where could a woman get birth control materials 
in that day? 

We gave it in our clinic. (When my daughter, Ruth, 
was at the head of the clinics over here in 
Oakland and Berkeley they gave out information, and 
they had no difficulty at all. ) 

What did you call the clinic? 

We didn't advertise. We were entirely secret and 

*This date is more likely 1915 or 1916 (S.G.) 



Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 
Sullivan : 

Thygeson : 

had no name. I remember one time when a young man, a 
very nice young man, came up from the country, and he 
had just been newly married, and he had heard about 
birth control and he wanted to get the Information, he 
didn't want to get his wife pregnant right away. Yet 
he didn't want to do things, do what they have to 
do — so he came one morning to my house. We had this 
very heart-to-heart conversation about family, raising 
families, and so forth, and then I sent him, of course, 
to the clinic. He'd heard about me and I sent him to 
the clinic where they gave him the very definite infor 
mation, Margaret Sanger's device that she had at the 
time, fitted him out. 

What we were doing was very active work. It was 
not only advocating what we were doing, but it was 
helping people that couldn't otherwise have done any 
thing about it. Because after all if you don't have 
the cooperation of your husband you have to have other 
mechanical means to limit birth. 

Where did the money come from to run the clinic? 
It didn't take much money to run the clinic. 
Did people pay you? 

I don't remember that we had to collect money for it. 
I don't remember that we ever had any money troubles. 
I think money was handed out. I don't remember that 
we ever had to go out fto get money!, or that we were 
hampered for lack of money. We could just give 
people who came to us the information, and they had to 
spend the money. We could get Margaret Sanger's design 
for limiting family, but it cost a certain amount, 
but they always paid for it. We didn't have to furnish 
it to anyone. 

Where was the clinic? Did you have to pay rent for 
some space? 

We had a clinic, but it wasn't designated a birth 

control clinic. It was just an office, a room where 

we met and had lectures, and we lectured on the desirability 

of birth control, tried to educate people to the 

idea of too many people in the world and things like 

that. I don't remember that we ever had any difficulties 

about money. I went along in a terribly interested 


Thygeson i 

Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

and happy way, because I had a very happy family, a 
very wonderful husband. I was enjoying my life to the 
fullest extent . 

Did any of your friends object to what you were doing? 

I don't know how many of my social friends knew what 
I was doing. I wasn't out lecturing to the general 
public. My name wasn't prominent in that way at all. 
We were just doing sort of underground work, working 
with Margaret Sanger principally. She was the great 
birth control person at that time. It hadn't anything 
to do with my social life. We didn't make a social 
affair of it at any time. 

We were just working along, just as I would be 
doing now if I were working among people. I wouldn't be 
out having a meeting and a place to meet and all that 
kind of thing. I'd be doing probably the same thing, 
meeting around at houses, educating women who were 
either newly married or going to be married, giving 
them the information. Of course, we did meet many 
people. I was as active in the suffrage movement as 
I was in the birth control movement. 

Were you doing both at the same time? 

I was always present in the birth control movement, 
present today. I am still doing it, wherever it's 
necessary. People come along, young people, I have 
people over in Los Altos, young people, newly married. 
They wanted to know, not so much they know about birth 
control, much more than was known in my day, they like 
to discuss it. 

Her Work with the Women's Welfare League 

Sullivan j 
Thygeson : 

Were you doing the Women's Welfare League at the 
same time? 

That went on for several years. I was the first vice 
president. We had the president, who was not at the 
meetings. She was a very wealthy woman that went away 
with her husband every yean they went to Europe, In 
the summer they went down south. I was always there 


Sullivan i What was the president's name? 

Thygeson i 

Thygeson : 



Mrs. C. P. Noyes. Her husband was a wholesale druggist 
in St. Paul. They were very wealthy people. She was 
a very beautiful, high-minded woman. She came over to 
my house — I didn't live in the high-grade section 
that she lived in, I lived in the middle section of St. 
Paul , on the other side was the poorer element 
She came over one morning and begged me to come over 
on Summit Avenue where the elite lived and to be her 
guest for a certain time and go to these social affairs 
that were being given, not birth control affairs, 
especially, and go where I could meet these people in 
this higher social circle and talk to them. She wanted 
me to be her house guest. I declined that. 

What did she want you to do? 

Contact high society 

She wanted me to go there and mingle in the social 
life and in my talks to talk to these women about the 
larger views I had on suffrage and the woman question, 
and various things, which was not too far advanced 
in those days . It was an advanced thing for women to be 
out advocating suffrage or birth control at that time. 

She thought I was greatly fitted for taking part 
in that social atmosphere. I told her I wasn't at 
all fitted for that. I told her I would be making 
faux pas on every occasion . I told her that 
in that life in society you have to be born to it. 
You're not fitted, whatever you may think you are, 
whatever you may think you can do, you're going to be 
gauche on many occasions. You've read the story, 
haven't you, of that miner's daughter who married 
the Rockefeller and had his child. She told her story 
of what happens. She was very beautiful, she knew 
how to dress. She had very good manners. 

Do you want to tell about going to the Soviet Union? 
And your trips abroad? Did you go for the Women's 
League for Peace and Freedom? 

It was something very special, something way out of 
this world. Mary and I were there. It was a time not 
long after the Revolution. It was always interesting. 
We went along with a very interesting group. I don't 
know that there's anything particular. We just 
accepted things as they were and adapted ourselves to 




Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 


Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 


Sullivan : 
Thygeson i 

With this Women's Welfare League Mary has here that 
you had the only Negro couple in town (in St. Paul) 
belonging to that. What was that? 

That was a very prominent organization with a hundred 
women . 

Were these women middle-class women? Were there poor 
women in the group. What kind of backgrounds did these 
women come from? 

It had the background of woman's suffrage which we 
hadn't had at that time. It had a very active background. 
Sara Bard Field and a lot of very prominent women — 
they didn't belong to the Women's Welfare League, 
because that was a St. Paul organization — but we were 
organized legally. We were highly organized. We had 
about a hundred members. We gave a luncheon every 
week on Saturday. 

What was the main purpose? 

Education. We were educating for suffrage. Suffrage 
was not established at that time. We not only lectured 
for suffrage but we also lectured for birth control and 
any of the things that belonged to women. I was the 
first vice president of that. Our president was the 
woman I told you about who wanted me to go over to her 
house. She was a woman of high social standing in 
St. Paul. But she went away every summer, all summer, 
and every winter, all winter, so I was the presiding 
officer of the group. Then we had all the people 
that came in to lecture for us. These were people 
who came through St. Paul. St. Paul is half way on 
the traveling scale. 

Did you give them fees for lecturing? 

Our lectures were free. We served a luncheon for 
every week on Saturday. 

Who did the cooking? 

We brought things. The woman that did my washing and 
ironing, when it came my turn to furnish the luncheon, 
she did it for me . She was very capable . We took 
turns, the women on the staff. We had very prominent 
women on the staff, very nice, intelligent, some of 



the women of the highest Intelligence. 

turns . 

They took 

Sullivan : What about this "only Negro couple in town?" 


Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 

Yes, they belonged, to this League. He was a man of 
quite high standing in the community. He had attained 
some very fine position. Both of them were highly 
educated. We stood high in the community, because we 
had all these very fine lecturers that came. When 
these lecturers from abroad came to St. Paul they 
wanted to go from New York or Boston or one of those 
places to the coast here. Always when they stopped 
in St. Paul on the way we had them lecture to us. So 
we had a lot of these. 

We were very educational. I think we did a great 
deal in that line. We were very active and did a lot. 
We didn't draw the line too strictly about things. 
Woman's suffrage was not declared at that time. 
Womai's suffrage was not established and birth control 
was not established. So we had both of these 
things to establish and work with. We had very Inter 
esting people that came out. They worked with us. 
That is, they gave their lectures. 

One of the people from the coast here was David 
Starr Jordan. He lectured more than once to us. 
Because when he went back and forth he stopped off 
there and gave us a talk for our Saturday afternoon 

The father of one of the women who was at the 
head of our program had been governor of the state of 

Who was that? 

Mrs. Hamlin. She stood high in our work. She was 
highly intelligent. She was responsible for many of 
the programs. We worked with all the nice women. 
Sara Bard Field would come from the East where she 
had gone off to Ersklne Scott Wood, the man she married 
later on. She was living with him in sin at that time, 
because his wife wouldn't divorce him. But we welcomed 
her. She was very beautiful. She dressed very 
beautifully. She came to this group of very interesting, 
fine women. 
Do you remember what she talked about? 


Sullivan : 



She talked on suffrage and the woman question. I 
toted her around with these other women that came from 
the East In my Cadillac car, different places where she 
wanted to go. She lectured sometimes in more than one 
place. I never intruded myself as a personality, 
never. I was the chauffeur when I was driving her 

We had our big banquets when some of them came. 
I remember once, though, a great thrill I had. We 
were having a banquet. There was a large group of women 
and their husbands there. It was a time when the 
women brought their husbands . 

My husband was called upon to speak. I never 
will forget that night. I was so overwhelmingly proud 
of him. He got up and gave a very fine, sensible, 
wonderful talk. Although he was not a handsome man 
at all he seemed very handsome to me that night. 
He was distinguished looking. The way he spoke and 
the subject he spoke on — he was one to be highly 
proud of. I remember that great thrill I had. That 
remained with me a long, long time. I was so proud 
for all the things he stood for. They were so fine 
and good. 

Did you have problems dealing with the city government. 
Did they try to stop you from running the Birth Control 
Clinic? Did they try to interfere with your activities? 

No, not especially. I was written up editorially, 
written up detrimentally as being the head of the 
birth control movement. As long as my husband didn't 
mind it I didn't mind it. They couldn't say anything 
really bad. They wouldn't have done it on account of 
my husband's prominence. I didn't have anything to 
fear. I had no social position I was wrecking. 

Did you work in politics at all? 

No, I didn't work in the actual political situation. 
I just worked in the educational side. We brought the 
fine speakers, so many fine speakers to the city, and 
those that came through. One of our group, Mrs. Hamlin, 
was largely responsible for that, the one whose father 
had been governor of Minnesota at one time. He was 
a very prominent man. Mrs. Hamlin was a very highly 
educated woman . I think she graduated from some eastern 

Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

Sullivan : 

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Thygeson : 

Do you remember the rest of her name? 

Leonora Hamlin . We called her Norah Hamlin . She 
worked with us heart and soul. I was very glad to be 
intimately associated with her. I was happy to be 
associated with all those women. 

Were the people who came to the Birth Control Clinic 
poor people? 

I never had any function at the Birth Control Clinic 
myself, because we had these two doctors, one from St. 
Paul and one from Minneapolis. 

Do you remember their names? 

I'd like to remember their names. Cue of them came 
out several years afterwards to visit me and stayed 
three days with me in my Palo Alto house. He was one 
of the doctors that officiated at this special clinic 
in Minneapolis. The other doctor I can't remember 
his name at all. I really didn't have anything to do 
witn them. 

Was there more than one clinic, or was there just one? 

There was this one special clinic in the interurban 
district, that I was associated with. I didn't have 
anything to do with that. We just furnished this 
Instrument that Margaret Sanger had Invented for the 
prevention of pregnancy. It was a very Ingenious 
sort of one. They have found easier methods than that. 

Do you remember how much people had to pay for it? 

I don't think it was very much. Maybe $1.25i something 
like that. Of course you didn't [say] much about what 
people paid for it because it was Illegal, It was illegal 
to disseminate birth control, so we weren't out 
peddling birth control instruments. That wasn't done 
at all. It was highly illegal to even give out birth 
control. You can't imagine that now. It's very 
difficult to Imagine that you couldn't legally limit 
the size of your family. 

You and Mrs. Bacon and Mrs. Keller got together and 
set up this clinic? 

Yes, Mrs. Bacon and Mrs. Keller were the women. 



Sullivan : 
Thygeson : 

Sullivan t 
Thygeson : 

How was it actually that you set it up? Can you tell 
how you organized it? 

It was the other women who were deeply interested in 
it. They went out and rented the room and did every 
thing. They took over and did all that other part of 
it, the part that was necessary like setting up the 
work, the cleaning and having the doctors come. I 
didn't know the doctors. One I did know, but I 
wouldn't have known him, except that he came out to 
California and stayed three days at my house with 
me. He remembered me and had a very high opinion of 
me for running the clinic. So he came out later on 
especially to Palo Alto to see me. 

Who paid the rent for the room for the clinic. 

We had dues for our club. We had dues for the Women's 
Welfare League. We took in quite a bit of money at 
our weekend luncheon . We charged 25$ a meal for a 
small luncheon. We took in quite a bit of money every 
week. We served a hundred people. Of course they 
paid only 25^. "but we didn't have to pay any of our 
helpers. There was no expense to it. We brought in 
food, a lot of us, that didn't cost anything. So it 
was all clear money that we made. 

We were a very enthusiastic group. We were deeply 
interested in what we were doing. I think we accomplished 
a great deal. There were other women that were 
associated, women whose names were more prominent 
than mine, who lent their names to doing these things. 

Do you want to give some of their names? 

Mary tried to find the little booklet I have that was 
published on our Welfare League. In that booklet 
were the women who functioned as officers etc. Some 
day we'll look for it. I told her not to muss things 
up too much in that box because I would never get 
them back into shape again if she undid too much. 
It's not important who the names were, because they 
are long since dead and forgotten. The whole 
thing is a long time over. 

Sullivan : 

How did you stop working with them? 
Palo Alto that ended your work? 

Was it moving to 

Thygeson : 

We broke up "because everybody changed and moved away. 

The older people that were there, their children 

grew up and married and many of them had gone out here 

to California, like I had. Many of them had died. 

That was a very simple way, the way it wound up. 

Because we didn't all remain the same age, there together. 

Many of them were older, younger. Some married. Some 


Woman ' s Welfare League 

Studio Building 
Fourth and Market Sts. 
St . Paul 

President — Mrs. C.P. Noyes 
First Vice-Pres. — Mrs. N.M. Thygeson 
Second Vice-Pres. — Mrs. H.A. Tomlinson 
Third Vice-Pres. — Mrs. I.L. Rypins 
Treasurer -- Miss Cornelia Lusk 
Rec . Secretary — Mrs. J.C. Holman 
Cor. Secretary — Mrs. John M. Guise 
Auditor — Miss Anna E.R. Furness 

Directors — 
Mrs. Louis Benepe 
Mrs. Grace M. Keller 
Mrs. J.O. Sulvester 
Mrs. H. T. Qulnlan 
Mrs. M.O. Graves 

Committee Chairmen — 

Membership — Mrs. W.A. Cameron 
Finance — Mrs. Gilbert Gutterson 
Political Education -- Mrs. Louis Benepe 
Hospitality — Mrs. D.W. Gray 
House — Mrs. F.D. Williams 
Press — Mrs. W.L. Chapln 
Ways and Means — Mrs. J.M. Schwartz 
Social Conditions — Mrs. H.A. Tomlinson 
Suffrage Extension -- Mrs. A.M. Burt 




The following interview with Sylvie Thygeson, conducted 
October 12, 1972, in a convalescent hospital in California, was 
the first undertaken by The Feminist History Research Project. 
Sylvie Thygeson 's name had been given to us by Esther Hurwitt, 
a family friend living in Los Angeles. Esther had been an 
intimate friend of Sylvie 's deceased daughter, Ruth, and as a 
result of Esther's relationship to Sylvie and the family, called 
Sylvie "Mother T." 

Sylvie had become a legend to the many women in Los Angeles 
who heard of her through Esther, and also referred to the remark 
able old suffragist simply as "Mother T." In learning of 
"Mother T's" name, I discovered that she was the grandmother of 
Fritjof Thygeson, whom I had known twenty years before. 

Mary Shepardson, Sylvie 's daughter, herself a remarkable 
woman, accompanied me on the interview. We arrived at the con 
valescent hospital without any advance warning. I had very 
little knowledge of Sylvie Thygeson 's activities and at the time 
was not even aware of the earlier interview recorded by Ralda. 
And, I was totally unprepared to meet a 104-year old face-to-face. 
The experience was a profound one. 

It became immediately clear that Sylvie Thygeson was an 
exceptional woman. Perhaps the most striking element of the 
interview experience, though, was the contrast between the 
hospital environment and this unusual 104-year old woman dis 
coursing on her world view. As she recounts her role in "the 
great evolutionary process," there is the counterpoint (clear 
on the tape) of bingo numbers being called by the recreation 
leader in order to divert the other residents — all of whom are 
younger than Sylvie. 

Of all the interviews I have subsequently taped (some one 
hundred hours) , this has been the most memorable and the most 
moving — not just because it was my first, and not just because 
of the bizarre contrast between Sylvie Thygeson 's words and the 
calling of the bingo numbers. It is unforgettable because over 
one hundred years of the United States history was represented 
by this woman whose name is derived from a pre-Civil War encounter 
between her father and a runaway slave. And it is unforgettable 
because of the very nature of the woman who is Sylvie Thygeson. 

Sherna Gluck 

January 1974 



The Birth Control Movement, St. Paul, Minnesota 



Thygeson « 

Can you tell me a little bit about your work in the 
birth control movement. 

We three women — there were two connected with me — 
organized this birth control clinic that we had; it 
functuated f s * c 3 -*- n St. Paul. We had one doctor from 
Minneapolis "and one from St. Paul that assisted us 
in the clinic. 

What did you do exactly? 

This was the birth control movement. I don't know 
that there was — It had to be secret because it was 
against the law. It was against the law at that time 
to buy any contraceptive material; anything that 
prevented conception. It was against the law at that 
time. And certainly it was against the law to print 
anything or to advertise in any way, shape or manner 
any kind of thing you were doing in the line of birth 
control. Because, as I say, it was against the law. 

What year was this that you had the clinic? 

What year? I can't remember special years. Because 
I have never formulated it. It was never published 
except Just as anyone made a little sketch of it. A 
little notice or something might have been published 
in one of the other papers; because it was so strictly 
against the law that we weren't printing it nor 
advertising it nor doing anything public about it. 
As I say, you don't do something that is against 
the ordinances of your city and the laws of your 
state. You don't do anything in the open. 


Shepardson : 
Thygeson : 

Shepardson t 

Thygeson i 
Thygeson : 
Shepardson : 
Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

Mother, who was In with you? 

There were two women. I wouldn't want to mention 
their names. 

Why not? They are dead, 
have a place in history. 
[Mrs. L.M. Benepe] 

And they'd be happy to 
Was it Mrs. Benepe? 

No. I said that I won't mention their names. 

All right. 

Because it was illegal. 

It's not Illegal now. 

Well, I don't know that they would want me to be 
mentioning their names. Of course, associated with 
ma — there were three other women associated very 
closely with me. I don't need to mention their names, 
who they were. There were three of them.* They 
were very prominent women . One of the husbands — the 
husband of one of the women was a doctor, a very 
prominent doctor in St. Paul. And as I say, the. 
work we were doing was strictly illegal. 

Did you just give out Information or did you have 
contraceptives, too? 

No. We followed Margaret Sanger. We advocated and 
we circulated the birth control contrivance she had 
invented. We worked very strictly with her, of 
course, because she was organizing the movement 
that went all over the country. 

Was she the one who asked you to set this up? 

Well, I don't know that anyone asked us to set it 
up. I think it was needed and she Just helped us. 
She gave us Information and advice and help. Mainly, 
of course, she gave us information which we circulated 

*There were three including Sylvie Thygeson. S.G. 



Thygeson » 

Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

and gave out. 

I was written up because of the prominence of my 
husband. I wouldn't have been — My two co-partners, 
they would have been written up as much as I was if 
their husbands had been as prominent as mine. One 
of them was a doctor and the other [woman] was 
divorced from her husband, so there wasn't any 
natural thing there about the Clinic, and so forth. 
But my husband was very prominent in the city and 
so I was written up. I was written up editorially in 
our principal paper, the Pioneer Press. 

Denounced? Were you denounced, mother? 

I wasn't exactly denounced. I wasn't commended. 
But it was Just giving out information and commenting 
a little about it. I don't remember. I had saved 
all the clippings and then I left them with one of 
my workmates there. I left them with Mrs. Keller 
[Grace Keller^ when I went to California, when I 
took you children to California one winter. They 
were mislaid or lost or stolen . She thought they 
were stolen. 

I was looking for them in your books, 
anything about it there. 

I couldn't find 

Mo. All that material that was collected and saved 
was stolen that winter I came to California — 
stolen or lost. She doesn't know what ever became 
of it. It disappeared in her house. 

How was the clinic supported? 
come from? 

Where did the money 

Oh, it came from all kinds of sources. It came from 
anyone and everyone who wanted to make a contribu 
tion. It was Just like these other movements. It 
was a volunteer movement and whoever felt interested 
in it or wanted it to continue made a contribution. 

Relationship between Birth Control Movement and 
the Suffrage Movement in St. Paul 

Thygeson i It was like the suffrage movement which, In a certain 
way, was somewhat identified with it at that time; 


Thygeson : 


Thygeson i 


Thygeson t 

because most of the women who were very prominent 
in the suffrage movement were also prominent In the 
birth control movement. Some of the wealthy women 
of the city. 

I don't know that there's anything more to tell 
except that we worked all the time with It and we 
had very prominent speakers come from all over. 

This is on the suffrage movement, right? 

Yes, on the suffrage movement — well, the birth 
control movement. In my life the two were so closely 
identified. I mean we worked — we were working at 
the same time on both movements. 

You were working in the suffrage movement In 

The group that I was working with Identified with 
both movements. We had the wife of a professor at 
the college in Indiana, the State University. She 
was a very fluent speaker. We had her lecturing In 
St. Paul and other places. I paid her expenses for 
a month's suffrage work in Iowa. She gave a whole 
month up to that. I paid her expenses for that. 
She was a fluent speaker and very attractive. 

What was her name? 

I've forgotten her name Just now. I shouldn't forget 
it, but I've forgotten a lot of things. 

Did you work for the suffrage amendment when you were 
in Minnesota? 

Yes, we were working constantly for the suffrage 
movement as well as the birth control movement. 
They were part of our lives. We were identified 
with them there in our work? with both movements, 
the suffrage movement and the birth control movement. 

The Suffrage Movement Viewed as Educational and 
Evolutionary Process 

Shepardson : 
Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 



What was the name of the organization you worked with 
mostly, Mother? The Woman's Welfare League? 

Well, that was one of the big city organizations. 
Yes, that was one of the big city organizations that 
I worked with. You saw the little booklet In my 


It was published. We had our constitution published. 
We were prominent. We were very prominent as a 
birth control league. That is The Woman's Welfare 
League was a very prominent organization. We served 
a hundred luncheons every week, every Saturday, at 
25^ a piece. We served a hundred luncheons. In 
order to get the group together. And then we had all 
the prominent speakers, the different people that 
came through St. Paul traveling. 

Was this for both suffrage and birth control? 

The Woman's Welfare League which was identified with 
suffrage. They couldn't be identified with the birth 
control movement because that was illegal. But the 
women who belonged to the Welfare League and were 
officers in it all supported the Birth Control 
League. So we were closely identified; not as an 
organization, but the people were closely Identified 
with the movement. 

How did you feel women would change after suffrage 
became effective? 

I never had any Illusions about what women would do. 
I was never that foolish as to —no, I think women 
are responsible for a great deal of the backwardness 
of the world. I never had any feeling at all that 
the world would be better and go on to happier 
and wiser things. I thought women were Just as 
corrupt in every way as men were and Just as lacking 
in any kind of Judgement. In other words, I never 
had any illusion about women. 

I think we tried to have a myth, you know, that 


Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 


women were superior; that if the world had suffrage 
that was advocated then the whole world would be 
better and all these things that were evil would 
disappear. All of which was perfect nonsense, 
because women were Just people like men were; good 
and bad, enlightened and not, the same as men were. 
And I never had the illusions. 

Your father had a lot of Illusions about what 
women would do, but I never had any of those illusions. 

Did you feel, though, that things would change for 
women themselves, that they would be — 

Well, I believe in evolution and in progress. I 
couldn't read the history of the world from Neanderthal 
Man up to the present time without knowing there 'd 
be a great many changes. I looked at it intelligently. 
I didn't look at it in the light that women, as 
women, were going to change. They would change as 
a group of people, as a product coming along in the 
evolution of society and the world; not as men, 
or women . 

Then, why did you work for suffrage? 

Because it was part of the movement. It was a part 
of — Every great movement — These movements are 
going on today at the present time. Each little thing 
helps the larger movement until it comes out and 
can really accomplish something. It educates and 
works. It's a part of the education of the world, 
these small movements are. These little groups that 
we have around that are trying to do world betterment. 
They're just a part of the educational process. 
They can't of their own. Any of these small groups 
at any time can't accomplish anything. It has to be 
in the larger effort as they put that forth. So 
it was all a great part, as I looked at it, a 
part of an educational process. 

But don't you think that the Nineteenth Amendment 
was a direct benefit to women? 

Well, of course I do! I think it was not only of 
benefit to them, but I think it was part of the 
educational process . It was inevitable that women 
were to vote. They were human beings endowed with 
certain, as we say the old words, "inalienable rights." 

Thygeson t 

Gluck : 
Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

They had the creation of things, the same process 

that men had and had to be a part of It . I thought 

as the world progressed and went on further that 

men and women would come to have absolutely equal rights. 

They'd be human beings, not sexes. They'd be human 

beings and have certain inalienable rights, both 



Did you feel that the suffrage movement would 
accomplish that? 

Certainly, I thought that for women to have the right 
to vote the same as men — it was ridiculous when 
you stop to think of it , that In a world composed 
of women and men, and where the women had the most 
influence because they brought up the children, and 
in the end had far more influence than the men - 
that they should be the ones restricted in what was 
a larger field for progress and that was in the 
voting process and in the participation in municipal 
affairs and state affairs. 

I don't think we've gone very far yet, because 
we are far away yet from anyone thinking of a woman 
being president of the United States. There isn't 
any reason In the world why some women aren't just 
as capable as some men to become head of the 
government. But we're a long way from that, 
I think. Of course, I might be surprised if I were 
to live on and see that it would be possible much 
sooner than I am looking for it. But women will run 
for president of the United States. 

After the suffrage amendment was passed did you feel 
there were any changes In this country? 

Of course there have been many changes that have 
happened and much broadening out since the amendment 
was passed — the Woman's Suffrage Amendment. 
It was just a part of the education evolution of the 
world; not just a little movement or something In 
itself. It was't that. It was part of the larger 
educational process; the evolution of the world since 
the first history we have of it, Neanderthal Man — 
since his origin. All these little things like 
birth control and everything are Just parts of a 
great movement of evolution. That's all the way 
I can explain it. Just as we're going on and on. 

Thygeson : 
Shepardson : 

Thygeson : 

Shepardson i 



Gluck : 

We're going on to greater and greater evolutionary 
processes all through. 

Mother, do you think the position of women is 
better than it was when you were my age or Sherna's 

Well, the only thing is that things then that were 
Just evolutlng — we were Just coming out of — are 
Just taken so completely for granted that we don't 
even stop to think about it. No one thinks for a 
moment, or stops to think, that it's uncommon or 
unusual for women to go to the polls and vote. We 
don't even think of that. It's so common now. We 
don't think of the fight that was made for it. 
We Just accept it. And that's the way with all 
these processes. To my mind, the whole process is 
a process of evolution. 

But I mean, specially, on the woman question. 

Wliat do you think are some of the advances that have 

been made since you were a girl? 

I don't know. 

What about from the point of view of education. Do 
you think women have more chance to get a higher 

Oh, I think they have every chance. There isn't any 
restriction at all on women now. There's no lack 
of what they can do and where they can go and how 
they can be educated; but I don't think women are 
more advanced in any way than men are. I have no 
illusions. It's only along some lines that they 
are a little more interested and that they work a 
little harder. But as to thinking that women in 
any way — I would say that not in any way do I 
think women are superior to men. I think they are all 
human beings. There are Just as many very high 
spirited men working for good ends and the same 
high spirited women — It's Just part of the 
evolutionary movement . 

Did you have any disappointments after the passage 
of the suffrage amendment? Did you think that things 
hadn't gone as you hoped they might? 

Thygeson: No, because I never had any Illusions to start 

Thygeson : 

Shepardson : 

Thygeson : 

with. I was too — for God's sake, I hope I was — 
too intelligent to have illusions. I wouldn't want 
to be accused of that. Because women are human 
beings the same as men . 

How about women in the peace movement. Were you 
ever connected with the International League for 
Peace and Freedom? 

Yes, I belonged to it. I was a part of it. We 
had our organization there. We gave a dinner. 
Every weekend we gave a Saturday luncheon. 

Shepardson i No, I'm talking about the peace organization. The 


Shepardson t 

Thygeson : 

Shepardson : 

Women's Internatlon League of Peace and Freedom, 

not the Women's Welfare League. Did you belong to that?* 

I don't know that I definitely belonged. I was 
working and in sympathy with the various movements. 
As head of a very large organization as the Women's 
Welfare League was - we catered to international as 
well as national speakers. 

Who were some of those big "peace" women that used 
to come? Didn't you entertain a lot of those Inter 
national League leaders? 

Sara Bard Field was one of them [suffragist]. 
She is living here in California. She would be the 
one to interview if you wanted to interview about 
suffrage . 

She is in worse condition than you are, Mother. 

Well, she was a great worker and a very efficient 
worker. Her picture hangs in the Library of Congress 
along with some other women that worked. She was 
very efficient. She gave up all of her time and she 
had a wonderful husband that helped out . He was a 
fluent speaker and a very humorous one. There were many 
wonderful women who were working in the suffrage 
movement at the time that I was. 

*Though the questions of Mary Shepardson related to 
the World War I peace movement, Sylvle Thygeson 
misunderstood or did not hear properly, and continued 
referring to the suffrage group. S.G. 

Thygeson : 

I was limited. My time was limited, in a way, 
because I had four children. I was quite free 
because I had good help with the children that 
left me the free time to do things. It was Lala 
being there that left me the free time to do what 
I did do.* So instead of devoting myself to you 
children at that particular time when you were small 
I gave it to the suffrage and the birth control 
movement, of which I really was a part. It's not 
anything to be regretted. It was a part of the larger 
movement . 

That's the way I want you children to regard it, 
as part of participating in the larger movements of 
the world. I could have devoted more time to family. 
You are well looked after and well taken care of and 
beautifully tended in every way, so I wasn't neglecting 
you. And I gained a great deal of prominence, more 
prominence than I would have had - except that I had 
four children that were all thriving and they never 
had any problems in school or any troubles or any 
backward — They were all progressive, my children 
were. They did me credit all along the line. Anyone 
who wanted to write me up with my children, they 
have good material to go on. Because my boys never 
did a thing that was questionable, and I never had 
any trouble in any way. 

Family Background 

Shepardson : 

Shepardson : 

How about your mother? Wasn't Grandma a friend of 
Margaret Sanger's? 

No. She knew Margaret Sanger Just as someone coming 
through, coming to Portland. 

Didn't she entertain her there? 

Yes, she entertained Margaret Sanger. Oh yes, my 
mother was part of the liberal movement, of course. 
She went right along with every phase of the 

*S. Anna Larson, a graduate in the first nursing 

class of Anchor Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. M.T.S. 

Thygeson : 
Shepardson : 

Shepardson t 

Thygeson : 

Shepardson : 

liberal movement. 

And she was born In 184-5? Went through the Civil War? 

Yes, she went through the Civil War as a young woman, 
a very young woman with her children. Your grand 
father, of course, was In the Civil War. He served 
with Grant. He was with Grant at Vlcksburg. And he 
was wounded in the head. He was wounded and had to 
have a silver plate. He did his share. They put a 
special tomb over his grave back in Illinois 
where he was buried because he had served in the 
Civil War. 

Mother, I was trying to tell that story of how you 
got the name Sylvle. I'm not sure I have it right. 
Do you want to tell it again? 

It was Just that my grandparents were coming along 
the Mason-Dixon Line and at this one spot where 
they stopped and were entertained with this fleeing 
Negro family: husband and wife and two or three 
children. There was this little Negro girl that my 
father - he was a little boy at the time - got well 
acquainted with the two or three days that they 
were held over there on their way. It was a part 
of the Mason-Dixon Line that my grandparents belonged 
to.* And so years afterwards when I came along they 
were thinking about a name and wondering. I was 
tne fourth child in the family and they had no 
special name for me. My father suggested, "Call 
her after that little girl from Louisiana." This 
particular set of Negroes were from Louisiana* They 
had a little girl that had a French name. And so 
they said, "Let's call her that." Since they didn't 
have any other name in view. So I was named that. 

Didn't your grandfather have a station on the 
Underground Railroad? 

He wasn't in charge of a station. No, but he stopped 
at these stations. He wasn't in charge of a station. 
They went on their way still further, way across from 
Rochester, New York, clear across the country into 
Iowa. They stopped at Fayette, Iowa, a little 

*The Underground Railroad. MTS. 

Thygeson : 

place there - a little fort, I think It was at 

the time. They stopped there and settled, In Fayette, 


My grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. 
He had a congregation there. He was a real pioneer. 
But he was burned to death in that prairie fire. 
He'd been out ministering to a sick patient - a 
patient who was dying, in fact - cross country. He 
had taken his little boy with him, his five-year- 
old son, and coming back they were caught in this 
prairie fire and burned to death. That's the way 
my grandfather met his death. He was on this errand 
of mercy and coming back from it. 

So I never had any religion and I had less after I 
knew that story - that my grandfather had been on 
this mission of giving spiritual help. He was a 
minister. He was a Presbyterian minister. He was 
giving spiritual help to this woman who was dying, 
and he'd gone across on this prairie and coming back 
he and his little boy he had taken with him were 
caught in the prairie fire and burned to death. So 
I never in the world could have had any religion 
after that, hearing that story. 

Social Concerns in California 

Gluck : 

Thygeson : 
Thygeson : 

Thygeson t 

When you came out to California did you continue 
your work on birth control and suffrage? 

I don't know exactly when I actually moved to California. 


Oh, I was always in some way or other connected with 
the movement. I never lost out in connection with 
the movement. I'm connected with it today. I'm 
still a member of the organization at San Jose. 
fThe Planned Parenthood] I have contributed. 

Tell her what you belong to right now. 
to Planned Parenthood — 

Yes. I belong to the ACUJ. 

You belong 

Shepardson : 

Thygeson : 


Thygeson : 



The NAACP. Weren't you one of the first members? 
Haven't you belonged to the NAACP since It was 

Yes, I think so. I couldn't swear to It. But I 
think there's no question because I can't remember 
when I didn't belong. I wouldn't like to be put on 
the stand and have to certify, because I wouldn't 

What kind of work did you do when you came out to 
California, when you left Minnesota? What sort of 
activities were you involved in? 

I don't know that I could tell, because I was always 
very active in whatever there was going on. I was 
active just as I had been up until this time. 
That's one of the things that brought Marian McKay 
and myself together; the San Jose birth control 
movement. She was greatly interested in it. She 
has given me these generous presents of ten dollars 
and things like that for the Birth Control League, 
for our work in that. But I've been greatly 

One of my greatest Interests at the present 
time is the ACLU, the free speech movement. That I 
think is terribly Important that we keep that alive. 
I belonged to that since its inception. One of the 
things back there when it was first organized by 
Roger Baldwin. I consider that one of the most valuable 
organizations that we have in this country. I wish 
my family felt the same. I don't urge anything on 
them because they are highly intelligent, each one of 
them, and they know what they want and what they 
consider valuable. 

What are you talking about? I belong to the ACLU. 
Sometimes they kind of bother me, defending Shockley. 

Well, you'd better stick with it. 

They are raising a case here that Shockley isn't 
allowed to give his racist course over there at 
Stanford. Stanford blew the whistle on him. It 
kind of bugged me to be putting money into anything 
like that. But if you've got to be consistent — 

Thygeson : 

Gluck : 

Thygeson i 

Thygeson : 

Shepardson : 

Shepardson : 

Anyway I consider it — whatever variations there 
may be, I still consider it one of the most valuable 
organizations and I belong to it and, as far as I 
know, I'm still a member of it. I also am a member 
of the San Jose Birth Control League. 

Did you set up any more birth control clinics when 
you came to California? Did you set up more clinics 

No, I think there were already clinics here. 

How about Ruthie? [Ruth Thygeson Shepardson, Sylvie 
Thygeson 's other daughter]] 

Oh yes, she did a great deal of work in the birth 
control movement, Ruthie did, before she died. 
When you bring her up I have to think that she and 
I worked together. I contributed money to things 
and she did the work. She gave her time and her 
experience and her knowledge as a doctor. 

Where did Ruthie have her clinic, mother? 

Her work was done a great deal in Berkeley and in 
Oakland In the schools. She was the birth control 
worker. In the schools.* 

She had a special clinic, didn't she? 

Yes, she belonged to a special clinic. I can't 
say that I know too much about that. I don't know 
too much about that. Because that was done without 
my particular participation or knowledge. She 
functioned, she gave her services as a doctor. 
That was not given to promote the movement or anything 
like that. It was given as a genuine service In 
showing how to work the birth control contrivance 
that was used. In other words, how to use what 
knowledge was available; how to make it practical 
and use it. She gave out that which was very 
valuable to receive and have and give. 

*Ruth was on the staff at U.C. examining students. 
I don't think she worked In the lower schools. MTS, 


Reaction to Voting 

Gluck : 

Thygeson : 



Shepardson : 
Gluck : 
Thygeson : 

When was the first time that you voted? Was it in 
1920 right after the suffrage amendment? 

It was the very earliest time that anyone could vote 
that I voted. If I had my scrapbook here — 
One of my scrapbooks where my friend who was one 
of the intimate co-workers, Mrs. Benepe, gave a 
humorous picture there of our first movement in 
voting, of an old cat going out and voting — 

I saw that picture not too long ago. 
to Shema. 

I 1 11 show it 

That was illustrative of the fad of our being out 
and having the vote. She saw the humorous side of 
it. She knew our having the vote, while it was a 
step forward, she knew we wouldn't do anything with 
it because we were no more enlightened than the 
men were. Most women were not as enlightened 
as the men . Most women are very Ignorant . They 
are today as you know. You'll find among the women, 
many, many women, the great masses of women, 
aren't one bit interested in politics. 

Of your children who were the ones going out and 
doing things as far as movements were concerned, 
yours sons or your daughters? 

It was my daughters. But my sons have always fully 
believed in all these progressive movements. They 
have never been a part of the backward movement. 
They don't know what it is. They've always been 

Tney are good on the woman question and on the racial 
question . 

How did you feel the first time you voted? Do you 
remember what it was like? 

I'm afraid to say I never had any illusions. I 
never had any illusions that women were out to save 
the world. 

Shepardson: Wasn't it a thrill to vote for the first time? 

Thygeson : 

I don't know that I could say that it was. It Isn't 
any more of a thrill than I would feel now for some 
forward radical movement progressing into a regulation 

The Evolutionary Process i A World View 

Thygeson : 

Thygeson : 

Gluck s 
Thygeson : 

To my mind, I was transfixed with the theory of 
evolution . I am so imbued with the theory of evolution 
that not any of these things come as great surprises. 
They're all a part of the radical, the movements of 
the world, the movements of evolution. 

Do you think these changes would have occurred if you 
hadn't done the work you did? 

I don't know that I could say that. Perhaps if I 
hadn't done what I did somebody else would have come 
along and done it. Who can say? You can't say that. 
I think I just worked along with the evolution of my 
time. I think if I hadn't done what I did, as I 
did it, that someone else would have come along and 
done it. I think it is inevitable - it was Inevitable • 
that we go on with a certain kind of progress Just 
like you're doing things now. How do you come, 
young as you are, to be wanting to do these things? 
Why do you want to? Why do you give a damn as to what 

I think because there were women like you before 

Yes. I think it's because you do care; you do care 
about things and you want to be (know you are) a 
part of the evolutionary process, and you want to be 
a good part of that and an intelligent part. And 
so you play your part . And if you know anything about 
the world you know that you progress along evolutionary 
lines and that certain progress will be made. It 
might not be made as rapidly nor as efficiently and 
some things might not be accomplished as quickly if 
there weren't these ardent workers who fully believe 
in things. But progress will come because it's 
inevitable in the evolutionary progress of the world. 


GlUCk : 



Thygeson : 

Shepardson : 

Looking back now what kind of progress do you think 
has occurred for women in the last fifty years? 

You mean what the women have done? Well, I don't know 
that I could say, because my own thoughts and mind 
have gone so completely along — not with the women as 
a movement but with both sexes, with humanity working 
as a movement . It has gone along so completely in 
that line. I can't - I don't - separate women from 
men . 

But you were working primarily for women in the 
birth control movement and in the suffrage movement, 
weren't you? 

Of course you have to there. There's a definite 
line from the very nature of the way people are 
organized and born. It isn't so definite In the 
suffrage line. But I think these things are bound 
to come along as the world progresses. There's no 
way in which you can stop them. But of course you 
can always help along by going along with an intelligent 
process. And I want my family to go along with the 
intelligent process. Mary has and she's gone 
along. And her sister did, too; highly intelligently 
along very progressive lines. In every line she has 
been working in she has gone along progressive lines. 
She has made a great contribution to the world 
advancement of knowledge and enterprise and looking 
at things; an intelligent way of grasping. I think 
she has made very great progress in what she has 

Put up a fight for middle aged women, Mother, In 
the academic world. I am fighting for old women 
in the academic world.* 

The Progressive Roots 


Do you remember how you first got involved in all of 
the activities; in the suffrage fight, in the birth 

*I am referring to the fight I made to get a PhD 
In Anthropology at age fifty. MTS. 



Thygeson : 

control fight, and in social movements? 
remember how you first began? 

Do you 

Shepardson : 

Thygeson : 

I don't think there was ever a time - because my 
mother was a highly progressive woman - I don't think 
there was ever a time when I wasn't Interested; had 
to be converted to some movement. It was just the 
way you were brought up, dear. You can't remember 
a time. You couldn't possibly remember a time when 
you first developed and saw light, and so forth, 
because it was always there before you that you 
could see. That's the way it was with me. My 
mother was a highly progressive woman for her time. 
She was highly progressive for her time. 

Didn't you have some trouble in your childhood 
because your family was not religious in that little 
town where you lived? 

We would have been ostracized in that little town 
where we lived if we hadn't been children as progressive 
as we were. We never had failures in school, my 
family. We were a large family. There were probably 
five or six of us functioning each time [in school]. 
We never had failures. We stood among the progressive 
children of the time. We were always high in school. 
I went into high school - it was a regular high 
school - when I was twelve years old. We were all 
progressive. We were advanced in our studies. We 
were advanced when we graduated from high school. 
They had good schools in this little town where I 
lived. We had a very fine high school. We had some 
of the finest eachers because we had young men who 
just came out of college. The principal, the man 
who was head of the high school where I graduated, 
was a graduate of one of the big eastern colleges - 
Princeton, I think. He was one of the graduates. 
And a very wonderful high school teacher he was. He 
gave us all advanced ideas . 

But I would never have been as far in advance 
in my way of thinking and viewing of life if It 
hadn't been for my mother - and my father too, of 
course. We took it for granted - because he was 
the best educated man in the little town where I 
was bom. We just took it for granted about my 
father and his family, because they were all students. 

Thygeson: But my mother was only fifteen years old when 

she married. She had her whole life and education - at 
least in the higher ranks - to be lived and it was very 
important the way she lived it . And as we were 
numerous children it was highly to my mother's credit 
that she never deviated from the Intellectual side 
of life. She read all the finest books and had the 
finest literature and did everything right, from the 
beginning, along with us children as we went along. 
And never fell back at any time on her lack of com 
prehension on what our aims in life should be. 

Then, of course, I had the good fortune to 
meet and marry a highly Intelligent young man. Of 
course he was a college graduate. He had graduated 
in engineering as well as in legal work and was 
highly efficient. So things went along naturally, 
in a natural progressive way. 

As you know my children have all been Stanford 
students. There never was a thought in my life about 
my children not being able to enter any college they 
wanted to go to. And of course they were. Three 
of them were graduates of Stanford. One was within 
a very short time of graduating but he was called out 
to his job by the oil company that he has worked for 
all his life. He was gifted. He was the gifted one 
of the family. Elling was the gifted one. He had 
your father's mathematical — your father besides 
being a good lawyer had a mathematical gift. Elling 
inherited that from your father. 

Shepardson: The rest of us didn't get it. 

Gluck: Do you feel looking back that there were things 

that you wanted to do that you couldn't do because 
you were a woman; like going on to college or having 
any sort of profession? 

Thygeson: Oh yes, that was a very great loss to me when I was 
young, coming out, that I couldn't go to college. 
But I never had the hope that I could go. Because 
we were never able financially to have ever financed 
anything like going to college. So it was never a 
part of my life. But I had unusual experiences; my 
tvro years session, my two years life in St. Louis 
[with my uncle, Seymour Dwight Thompson]. 

Shepardson: He was judge of the appellate court? 



Shepardson : 

Thygeson : 

He was judge of what was called the St. Louis Court or 
Appeals; not the national, but the St. Louis Court of 
Appeals. He was a law book writer. His law books 
had extensive circulation. Here sum abroad. I 
helped in the writing of a couple of those law books 
when I was there, the two years I was there. 

I had every opportunity for a very progressive 
kino. 01 existence. And it did wonders for me in 
opening my eyes to the world - the world at large - 
so that I could never go back to a very narrow existence, 
I lived it, and it was all a great personal pleasure, 
like all one's knowledge is. Your own knowledge 
and your own awakening. Just the fact that you have 
this interest in the past and what was accomplished 
and done. You wouldn't have any Interest in it if 
you hadn't felt it always led to something that was 
broader. That's what our knowledge doesi It leads 
to something always beyond ourselves when we acquire 
knowledge. All you could do for children - all I 
could do for my children - was to furnish them with 
an expansive home life and also to go as far as they 
could go and as far as they wanted to go and give them 
the opportunity of progressing as far as they wanted 
to go. Always have places and opportunities open for 
that. That's all you can do. You can't put brains 
into people. You have just to give them the environ 
ment, the part that their brains can absorb. 

Are you married. And do you have children? 
I'm married but I don't have children. 
But if you did have that's all you can do. 

She is a sociologist, she does sociology research. 
She knows Esther [a family friend]. 

I know from the very fact that you want to sit here 
and listen to me shows you are progressive and that 
you can have some conception of the fact that each 
one, no matter how simple that can be, or in what a 
simple way that can be, can always make a contribution 
to the larger expanse of knowledge. That's the way 
I feel. Any one of us can make that their larger 
contribution to the world of knowledge, wherever 
that Is made and In however small or large 
way it can be made. It's valuable. You shouldn't 


Thygeson : 

ever give up doing something because you can't do 
better or do more. You should do what you can. So 
I've always tried to work along progressive lines. 
All you can give your children, if one has children, 
is to give them the opportunity for progressing. 

The U.S.S.H. 1929 

GlUCk : 


Shepardson : 
Thygeson : 

Shepardson : 

Thygeson : 


I understand that you went to the Soviet Union in 
about 1929. Do you remember how you felt women were 
doing there compared to the United States? 

How did I think it was in the Soviet Union? Oh, 
I had no illusions about things at all. I felt that 
history was being played there. The Soviet Union 
was writing history. They were in the forces of 
evolution as much as anyone. They could only play 
the part that was possible for them. You can't go out 
and make over something. You have to deal with people. 

You can go backwards, can't you? How about Hitler? 
Was he with the forces of evolution? 

You can't to any large extent [go backwards]. 
He played a brief time there. "But the people couldn't 
go any faster than they can go along certain lines. 
They can have climaxes and certain kinds of things. 

Did you notice in the Soviet Union women having more 
types of jobs than here in the United States? Did 
you notice any freedom for the women? 

They had complete freedom. What more could they 

Did they have birth control? 

Yes, they had everything! They had complete freedom. 
There were no restrictions on them, so I don't 
know what more they could have had. Oh yes, when 
they had the revolution they had complete freedom, 
as much as any of the women would take. 

The women were very ignorant, a great many 
of them. They never had had any opportunities for 
any kind of education or knowledge or anything. But 


Thygeson: they had all the freedom — every kind of freedom 

that they could possibly take and absorb. It wasn't 
any question of restriction or they were held back 
and had to fight for something. It wasn't that at 
all. The only question was getting them to accept 
the freedom that they had and to measure up to it. 
They came along very rapidly, the Soviet Union did. 
Because their women there were of a much higher order 
mentally than they knew they were. They didn't 
themselves know how much freedom they could absorb. 
They didn't know enough. They didn't know how much 
they could. But they did go along, and they have 
gone along with the process, what I would call the 
evolutionary process, there. 

The "Natural Superiority of Women": An Illusion 


Thygeson : 

Shepardson : 

Did you feel that women were able to be free if they 
were the ones that still had the sole responsibility 
for children? 

Oh yes, I thought probably for some generations to 
come because it's always women who bear the children 
and they have to have responsibility for them. Oh yes! 
I think that women must always feel that - and probably 
always feel it just a little more than men from the 
very nature of the process of birth. But I don't 
know about it education wise, if there is any difference 
and that women have any higher function because they 
are mothers. There's a lot of that nonsense that I 
don't subscribe to at all about what happens and so 
forth. You're intelligent, and you have to be born 
with a certain kind of intelligence. As you know 
yourself, you have to be born with the desire to 
learn, and if you're not bom with that desire you 
don't care about it and you don't learn and you go 
along with just the common mass — if you don't have this 
special interest in the pursuit of knowledge. 
I'm not given to any of these ideas, possibly not 
as much as I should be, that women are at all 
superior or that they would do anything better. 

They live longer, Mother, you'll admit that. 

Yes. I think that maybe they have more influence. 
But the great masses of women around one are not any 
people you can be particularly proud of any more 
than the men around us. 

GlUCk : 
Thygeson : 

Shepardson : 

Thygeson : 
Thygeson : 

Snepardson : 
Thygeson : 

Did you feel that was true when you were working in 
the suffrage and birth control movements? 

Oh yes, I never had any ("conceptions] of the superiority 
of women. Oh, no, I never had that. I could never 
have had tnat idea that women were superior when I 
had the kind of a husband I had. He was highly 
superior. He embraced all the good traits that any 
woman — high-minded traits, the intellectual 
impetus, ambitions and everything, he embraced 
everything in that line that I wished and desired 
for my children, and which I couldn't certainly 
surpass in any way. And so I never had any Illusions 
01 the superiority of women. 

You remember you thought your motner was superior 
to your father, didn't you? 

You mean intellectually? 
No , I mean as a person . 

well, I think my mother was superior in this way. 
I don't know that I can even really judge those 
things because it's the way you were bom. My 
father was born with a high temper. He 
got quickly angry at things. 

Maybe the silver plate in his head had something to 
do with that? 

Yes. My mother was more placid. It was difficult 
for her to get angry. My father could be angry and 
he could denounce, and so forth, but he did value 
education; he did value everything, had Ideals that 
were good. I never considered him as well balanced 
a person, at ail, as I considered my mother. She 
was only fifteen years old when she married. 
She was Just a child and he was twenty- seven years 
old. He had been to what they thought of as a college 
in those days. It had the same kind of a standing as 
a college has today. It was only seminary, but he 
had the advantage of that. That was considered 
one of the higher Institutions in those days. It 
was a seminary. 

He was quick-tempered. My mother was not. 

My mother had hard work getting angry. She had a 
very well balanced temperment. My father could get 
angry hastily. So I always knew when I was a 
child living in my mother's home there — I always 


Thygeson i knew that I never wanted to be like my father. I knew 
that. I never wanted to give way to quick temper, 
denounce, do that. And I never have! Because I 
didn't admire that type of person that gives way to 
an unbalanced temper, a fruitless kind of anger. 

Attitudes Toward War 

Gluck : 

Shepardson : 

Shepardson : 

Shepardson : 

Shepardson : 


Thygeson : 

Do you remember how you felt about the First World 

You were opposed to It, weren't you? 

Oh yes, I was definitely opposed to any war, that 
any young man should go and sacrifice his life for 
some vague principle. 

But in the Second World War you didn't take that 
position, did you? When it was a question of Hitler. 

No, I was opposed to Hitler and worked against him.* 
You supported that war, didn't you? 

I suppose I did. I can't remember exactly. 

I have a picture of you getting something — [a 
certificate for a contribution M T S ] in front of a 
poster of a woman who had lost four boys in the war. 
You supported that war, you remember that. 

When you were opposed to the First World War did 
you talk to other people and make speeches. Were 
you in any group? 

I can't remember so much about the war status. 

We were living here In Palo Alto. The war started 
when we were in Old Orchard, Maine. It was still on 
when we moved to Palo Alto. It was still on in 1917 

*When she was moved to a convalescent hospital, her 
books on the labor movement and the U.S.S.R. were sent 
to Emll Freed for the Southern Call fom la Library 
for Social Studies and Research. She had known him 
In Los Angeles through the Anti-Nazi League. She was 
a "premature anti-Nazi" she told me. M.T.S. 


Shepardson: and 1918- You were opposed to the war, weren't you? 
Thygeson: Oh yes, I was opposed to the war. 

As we look back, things get to be alike - 
the further back we recede, they begin to look a 
little shadier. We don't remember so clearly. 

Shepardson: Are you tired? 
Thygeson: Yes, I think. 

— personal things especially when you are a 
mother with children, a wife and a mother. Of 
course it's valuable because you can't help exercising 
influence, one way or the other» in the very nature 
of the bringing up of the children. The home 
environment has a great deal to do with the way 
children feel and think. 

[Sylvie Thygeson was obviously tired and the interview 
was terminated at this point, with a personal message 
given to Shema Gluck for transmission to a family 


INDEX - Sylvie Thygeson 

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) , 48-49 

birth control, 23-25 

Birth Control Clinic, St. Paul, 24, 26, 32-33, 36-38 

Civil War, 46 

Field, Sara Bard, 18, 30-31, 44 
Jordan, David Starr, 18, 30 
motherhood, views on, 24, 45 

NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) , 

religion, attitudes toward, 6, 47 

Sanger, Margaret, 23, 24, 37, 45 

Soviet Union, position of women in, 56-57 

voting, 50-51 

woman's suffrage: 

accomplishments, 42, 43, 50-51, 52 

attitudes of husband toward, 19 

attitude toward, 20, 40, 42 

expectations concerning, 32, 40, 42, 44, 50-51 

organizing for, 17. See also Women's Welfare League, 
women, 40-44, 50, 57-58 
Women's Welfare League, 18, 19, 29-30, 31, 33, 35, 40 

Feminist History Research Project Regional Oral History Office 

P.O. Box 1156 486 The Bancroft Library 

Topanga, California 90290 University of California, Berkeley 

Suffragists Oral History Project 

Jessie Haver Butler 

An Interview Conducted by 
Sherna Gluck 

1975 by The Regents of the University of California and 
The Feminist History Research Project 

Jessie Haver Butler 

TABLE OF CONTENTS - Jessie Haver Butler 

Interview History 
Biographical Data 


Parents, Family Life 1 

Early Determination: the Seeds of the Future 9 




The Bureau of Labor Statistics 31 

The Consumers League: Minimum Wages; the Meatpacking 

Industry 32 

On the Periphery of the Suffrage Drama 45 

Moving from the Periphery to the Center; the Tour 

for Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment 49 






The Decision to Marry 73 

Return to the United States 81 



Teacher and Author — Public Speaking for Women 85 



Joining the Movement 101 

Considering the Needs of Women 104 

Men and Women Must Work Together to Solve the Issues 108 

Child Care Centers 111 



Resolution on Day Care Centers, City of Pomona 118 

Christmas Letter, 1974 119 

Educational, Professional and Housewife Record of 

Jessie Haver Butler 121 

INDEX 122 


Jessie Haver Butler was among the first of the suffragists 
contacted by The Feminist History Research Project. She is a 
well-known figure in the feminist movement in the Los Angeles 
area, her involvement dating back to the late 1960s when she 
formed a public speaking class in an effort to help launch a 
speakers bureau for Los Angeles NOW (National Organization for 
Women) . Since then she has appeared and spoken at every cele 
bration of woman's suffrage. Most recently she spearheaded an 
active campaign by Pomona Valley NOW for the provision of Child 
Care Centers in newly constructed tract housing. At eighty-eight, 
she exhibits the physical vitality of someone half her age. 

Jessie Haver Butler is a rather large, imposing woman who 
pays close attention to her physical conditicn and appearance. 
She lives alone in an apartment in a retirement community in 
Claremont. (Her husband of fifty-four years, Hugh Butler, was 
permanently hospitalized several years ago.) Her move to the 
retirement community nine years ago was motivated more by her 
disdain of household duties than by physical incapacity. 

Her small apartment reflects her commitment and interests; 
her desk is piled high with papers, current feminist publications, 
and copies of Prevention magazine. Photographs of her grandchil 
dren occupy a prominent place in her decor, as do the photographs 
of her 1909 graduating class from Smith College, and of the Butlers 
at their presentation to the Royal Court in the 1920s. Her book 
shelves are crammed with feminist writings, old and new, books 
written by her spiritual teacher, Ann Ree Colton, and copies of 
her own book, Time to Speak Up. 

Beginning in November, 1972, a series of nine interviews 
(approximately eleven hours) were recorded with Ms. Butler in 
her apartment. She was most cooperative and candid. The inter 
views represent an in-depth look at the woman and her life, a 
life reflecting many avenues of interest and activity. 

For the current volume, only selected portions of the total 
series were included; basic background information, early suffrage 
interest and commitment, the suffrage years, and a condensed look 
at her life since 1920. Missing are the richly detailed inter 
views relating to her early working years in New York, her job 
with the Minimum Wage Commission in Boston, her life and activities 
in London, her role as mother and wife, and her later career 

teaching public speaking. However, material from each of these 
time periods is incorporated into the current volume to provide 
the full context and background to the suffrage story. The com 
plete series of interviews is in the archives of The Feminist 
History Research Project. 

Because the interview in this volume represents selections 
from the entire series — perhaps one-third of the total recorded 
material — some reorganization of the transcription was necessary, 
The basic interview segments were left largely intact. In the 
review process, however, the interviewee did make many changes — 
more in polishing language than in deleting material. She also 
added text, including a closing section. Thus, there are some 
stylistic variations in this final manuscript representing the 
difference between the verbatim spoken and the written word. 

Sherna Gluck 
December 1974 


Personal Biography 

Born to Clara Rehwoldt and Edwin B. Haver 
October 27, 1886, Pueblo, .Colorado 

Married: Hugh Butler, 1920 

Children: Daughter, Rosemary (Wohlhieter) , 1924 
Son, Richard, 1926 

Grandchildren: 3 granddaughters, 1 grandson 


Central High School, Pueblo, Colorado, 1902-1906 

Smith College, 1906-1909, B.A. 

George Washington University, 1935-1937 


Legal Stenographer, Pueblo, 1909-1911 

MacMillan and Company, Assistant to Head of College Textbook 

Division, 1911 
Secretary, Pulitzer School of Journalism, Columbia University, 

Statistician and Investigator, Massachusetts Minimum Wage 

Commission, 1913-1917 

Investigator, U.S. Department of Labor, 1917-1919 
Legislative Agent, Washington, D.C. Consumers League, 1919-1920 
Legislative Advocate, League of Women Voters, 1920 
Public Speaker, 1935 to present 
Teacher of Public Speaking, 1937-1950; 1970 

Organizational Affiliations 

Current Events Circle, American Women's Club, London, 1921-1929 

Needham Women's Club, 1930-1935 

General Federation of Women's Clubs (Board), 1940-1950 

Washington, D.C. League of Women Voters, 1939-1950 

Pomona League of Women Voters, 1950 to present 

Democratic Women's Club, 1950 to present 

Claremont Women's Club, 1950 to present 

Speech Association of American, 1945 to present 

National Organization for Women, 1968 to present 


Time to Speak Up, 1946 (Revised 1952, 1957) 
Autobiography, 1950 (Unpublished) 
Adams Other Wife, 1967 (Unpublished) 


Parents. Family Life 

Butler: The background of both parents is amazing, really. 

It's an example of what fine people helped to build 
America, yet handicapped because of the pioneer struggle 
that there was. 

We must never forget that the United States was 
built from the Atlantic to the Pacific In Just two 
hundred years. What's two hundred years to build a 
great nation! A lot of the people who helped build up 
that West, like my father and mother, were rare 
people. Had they been fifty years later, they'd have 
been leaders in any community where they were. But 
there they were with all that talent in this primitive 
environment. That's, of course, what's built America. 

Before I talk about my mother, I'd like to give a 
few words about her family background. Her father was 
a graduate of Berlin University. He was also trained 
as a Lutheran minister and he was Inspired to come to 
America to Christianize the Indians. He also wanted to 
get out of Germany because that was the era In which 
Bismarck was launching his great Prussian military 
program. Siegmund Rehwaldt was a short little man. He 
wore chin whiskers like Oom Paul [Paul Kruger, late 
Nineteenth Century South African Transvaal statesman] 
in Africa did. 

He traveled to Iowa and later to Nebraska. In his 
life, he founded all the Lutheran churches in Nebraska 
and a great many private Lutheran schools that are 
still in existence. He evidently was a man of great 
drive and energy. In Nebraska, then, he had six 

Butlen During the birth of the last child, there was an 

Indian raid and his wife died in childbirth. So he 
put all his smallest children into the hands of 
different farmers in the area* But my mother, who was 
the oldest, and her sister (she was ten years old and 
her sister was eight) were put in an orphanage. 

What an orphanage in Nebraska must have been 
like is hard to imagine. I later learned through 
analysis in London that my mother was raped in that 
orphanage, which accounted for the fact that there was 
a tremendous emotional situation with her and me from 
the beginning. This is Just the kind of thing that 
happened in those early days. 

When she was sixteen years old, she wanted to get 
educated, evidently having Inherited the kind of mind 
that her father had. He let her go to Colorado, which 
in those days had the best school system of the West, 
even before women had the vote. 

My mother went to Pueblo, Colorado. She became a 
maid for one of the leading families of that cltyj the 
husband had the first store for men's clothing. But 
she was not a full-time workerj she went to high school 
as well as working In this family. Being a German girl, 
she was a good cook and a good housekeeper, and a 
pretty woman » she was short, with blue eyes and a 
gay and happy character. 

In that Job, she met my father who was the first 
dairyman of Pueblo. He had founded or started a dairy 
a mile and a half west of Pueblo. He had built his 
house of adobe bricks that he had made himself on the 
ground j formed them, baked them and then built his 
home. Then he brought his wife to this house already 

Gluckt How old was she when they married, do you know? 

Butler t She was about twenty- two. No, she was a little younger 
than that. She died when she was thirty-two and I was 
ten years old. I can't figure out Just at this moment 
how young she wast she was a fairly young woman. 

The Interesting story Is that she and my father, 
Just like myself and my husband, were very much interested 
in public questions. In those days, Instead of reading 
about communism if you were radical, you read about 

Butler: socialism. So their favorite book was Looking Backward 
by Edward Bellamy. It was one of the first books on 
socialism and Is still a very Interesting and well- 
written book. Only Das Kapltal by Karl Marx exceeded 
this book's popularity. 

Before my mother was married, she wanted to go back 
and visit her German relatives In Nebraska. To their 
horror and astonishment, she pasted a notice on the 
door of her father's church that on a certain night she 
was going to give a lecture on socialism. You can 
Imagine— In a typical German farm community where the 
girls were supposed to be housewives for life, to have 
a young girl like that, about to be married, lecturing 
on socialism was a shock. Everybody went to hear what 
she said but idlsapproved of It thoroughly, I later 

Years later, when I was In Smith College, I stopped 
at this community on the way home. My mother's younger 
sister told me this story with great reluctance. She 
said, "You know, your mother was really peculiar. We 
never quite understood her." I said, M How was she 
peculiar?" Then she told me this story about socialism 
and her lecture. I said, "Did people go?" "Yes, 
the church was filled; It was such a sensation. But they 
felt very sorry for her future husband, that he was 
marrying such a strange and peculiar woman." 

Then I remember vividly when the campaign for 
woman's suffrage was going on In Colorado, how she 
climbed Into that spring wagon — I can see her yet 
doing It. Why she didn't take me along — that would have 
been a good thing to do, but I think I was babysitting 
at this point. She toured that valley to get the men to 
vote for woman's suffrage. 

And of course that great woman's suffrage leader, 
Susan B. Anthony, had been out there all over the state 
for months. She walked, she rode donkeys, and do you 
know what she did when she got to a mining town? 
There was no place to speak but the saloons. So she 
walked Into the saloons— cold—where she made her 
speeches. The men were so grateful and happy to see 
that lovely Quaker woman who would take such ah 
Interest In them that she was a sensation. 

Butler: Women were scarce in Colorado In those days and 
terribly valuable. Susan B. Anthony was such a sweet 
and gracious person! That she would take the trouble 
to go into the saloons and talk to the men was one way 
that Colorado got the vote. 

Gluck: Did your mother go with Susan B. Anthony? 

Butler t No, she never met her as far as I know. She did her 

little — what do you call it? — thing all on her own in that 
valley . 

While I'm on the subject of that valley of the 
Arkansas River and the farm area where we were, there 
wasn't a single family in that area whose mother 
brought up their children i mothers all died early. 
There were no doctors, there were no sinks in the 
kitchens, there were no bathrooms, no telephones, and 
there were no cars. I was born with no one there but my 
father to help with the process. 

But my mother was very smart t she had a great big 
book with which she was thoroughly familiar. She was 
another faddist. It's been natural that I've been 
somewhat of a faddist all my life. 

My mother was interested in modern nutrition. There 
was a man named Dr. Jackson where Plllsbury Flour is 
now, who started a whole system of new ways of eating. 
My mother had all these books. He had some strange 
ideas that didn't fit in with farm life very well. 
One of them was that there was to be no supper? that 
people were healthier without eating a big supper. 
Of course, this was difficult for my father. He had 
five hired men who were fed by my mother In our home. 
To go without supper until breakfast, from the dinner 
meal until breakfast, must have been a great strain. 

Hy brother and I took care of the situation. We 
swiped turnips, and celery, and watermelons, and corn 
from all the neighboring fields, and apples, too. 
So, we were well-fed, even though there was no supper In 
the kitchen. In fact, we became such thorough thieves 
when it came to finding food at night that our mother 
had to hide everything that was edible In the kitchen. 
She was unable to cope with the thievery. 

Butler* One thing I did, too, that was not very honest • 

My mother would never let me have any candy. Even then, 
the theory was that candy and sweets were bad for 
children; we know now she was right. So I used to 
take my Sunday school money and fill up the bags with 
candy ./ 

Then later, as we got a little older, our father 
bought us a little Shetland pony and cart to drive to 
school? we were two miles from the school, out of the 
valley, up over the hills and across the prairies. 

Gluck: Was it a regular ranch with animals? 

Butler » Yes. My father had a hundred cows; he had the largest 
milk barn in all of Colorado. Had he have been living 
fifty years later, he would have been a very great man 
because he had a fine mind and was an organizer and had 
created this modern dairy of Hoist eln cattle. 

Another animal I had was a lamb for a plaything. 
But you know, the lamb, Just loved to hide. Then when 
some man put down a pail of milk, he would go and sink 
his nose In It up to his ears. So, there was great 
talk about how that lamb was going to end his life. 
And he did; he had a tragic ending in the end. I 
never forgave them for killing him for our food. 

But this little Shetland pony and cart that we had 
was a sensation at the Carlisle School in Pueblo. It 
was In that school that I had a gifted teacher of 
rhetoric In the fourth grade— a teaching that has 
stayed with me all my life. She was a humpback, a 
homely little woman, but a great teacher. And I loved 
English rhetoric at that age, so you see how important 
such teaching can be. Colorado had some great 
teachers. (I'll tell about another one later on.) 

Gluck « Was your brother younger than you? 

Butler t Yes, he was younger. Anyway, one day I did buy an 

extra load of candy, but it had to be all "et" before 
I arrived home. So I was very busy consuming candy. I 
laid the reins of the pony down against the little 
dashboard. He knew the way home so well that I felt 
he could be trusted while I was consuming the candy. 
But the trouble was that at the last turn In the road, 
he made a sharp turn, and the little two wheel cart 
turned upside down landing me on the road with my candy. 

Butler i The next thing I saw, the pony was dashing down the 

road with the cart upside down. He carried It right on 
through the barn. Nobody knew I was there with the 
candy; I had to dispose of It at once. 

The cart was badly damaged. My father thought It 
was due to carelessness* so that summer he made me pick 
peas In a neighboring farm In the hot Colorado sun to 
earn the money to mend the little cart. I still 
remember that horrid experience. I never bought 
anymore candy again. 

Gluck: How old were you then, when you picked the peas? 

Butler: I think I was the ripe age of eight or nine years old. 
It was a horrible Job, In the hot fields, to pick those 
peas* Another way I earned money,' I went up on the 
prairie where cattle had died and gathered up bones. 
They were very smelly but also brought In a lot of 
money. When the summer was over, I had earned 
enough money to mend the cart and go back to school. 

Gluck: Did you and your brother help In milking the cows and 
In the dairy operation? 

Butler: No, no. It was a highly organized dairy with hired men 
whom my mother fed, as well as had children. Just 
think of It, she had four children In the end, and 
no sink — Just a cistern out In the backyard. 

We were never allowed out In the bam at all* I 
would have refused to milk a cow. Somehow I felt myself 
superior to such a low undertaking. They never could 
have made me do It. 

Gluck: So you were the oldest, then, of what was later four 

Butler: That's right. 

Gluck: Did the other three live through childhood? 

Butler: Well, the youngest one was drowned In the Irrigating 

ditch. Pour days later my mother died. That was when 
I was ten years old. 

I was with my mother when she died. She had a 
very tragic death. Just before she died, she told me 

Butler j that I was to get educated i that I was a bright child. 
This was news to me. She had never talked to me up 
till this point as If I were an Intelligent, under 
standing person. 

She had never let me help her In the kitchen— 
which was a mistake. But she was so busy and under 
such pressure, I suspect she felt she didn't have time. 
So my Job there was to be a babysitter, a Job I 
loathed because I had other things I wanted to do. 

Incidentally, I did not like dolls. But I loved 
animals. For example , I had a cat. She was called 
"Old Three Legs" because early In her career, when she 
was going through the big alfalfa field near our 
place one leg was cut off by the mowing machine, right 
at the knuckle. That didn't stop hert she still had 
three legs. So every year, she produced a nice litter 
or ten or twelve kittens . Finally, one of her 
children had kittens. I took great Interest in these 
kittens and did everything I could to further 
their growth successfully. But the mother was killed 
by the mowing machine. We found all the kittens up 
in the barn crying for food. Well, I knew "Three Legs" 
had a set of kittens, so I thought maybe she'd give 
the other litter some milk. This sort of undertaking 
Interested me Intensely rather than that of dolls. 

So I took "Three Legs" to the screaming kittens. 
She laid down at once and gave them a big meal. She 
really had a big lot of meal to give, regardless of 
her three legs. The next thing I saw, she was moving 
them one by one down with her litter of kittens. So 
she was one of those who believed in helping orphans. 
She brought up the whole twenty-four kittens with my 
help. She brought them up successfully. I was very 
proud of hert 

My brother had said he was going to take the 
starving kittens, put them in a bag with a rock and take 
them over and dump them in the river. I said If he 
did that, he'd never live to tell the talei I would 
punish him in such a way he'd never forget it. 

Then there's another amusing story, too. When I 
was In the fourth grade where I was getting these fine 
lessons on rhetoric, I invited the whole grade to come 
out one Saturday in the summer for a picnic. Somehow 


Butler: or other, the parents let them go. So they all came 

and we had a big picnic i they brought some lunches and 
we had a lot of things to eat. 

Then I asked them would they like to go wading in 
the river. Oh yes, they'd like to wade in the river! So 
we ran over to the river. I didn't know It was full 
of holes. Pretty soon, first one little skirt and 
then another began getting wet. So I said, "Let's 
take everything off; that's the way the boys do. 
Why shouldn't we do it?" 

Well, they were in doubt as to whether that was a 
nice thing to do or not, they were in great doubt I But 
they were all getting wet, so I led the procession. My 
cousin, who was a very religious little girl and very 
particular, refused, but everybody else stripped. 

We hung the clothes up on the shrubbery by the side 
of the river, and we had a swim! As you know, nothing 
feels so good as water on the body without a costume 
on it, so we Just had a gorgeous time, the whole 
crowd. Then everybody began putting clothes on and 
looking very ashamed to think they'd done it. 

Finally, they all went home and told their mothers. 
Meanwhile, I found that my mother and one of the hired 
men had lost us. They were going up and down that 
river but they never found us beyond that shrubbery! 
nor did they know we were in there swimming. I found 
out later that every girl was told that never again could 
she come to our ranch and visit me — a naughty girl like 
me that would get them to go in swimming without clothes 

Gluckj The school that you went to was In the town, Pueblo? 

Butler » It was on the edge of Pueblo, Carlisle School, an 
excellent school. 

Glucki Were the girls and the boys in the same classes 
together, or were they separate? 

Butler i Oh yes, it was a regular public school. The principal 
was a very strong, domineering woman, an excellent 
teacher. I never liked her because in her class she 
said that her life was getting very difficult because 
she could never get Jessie to stop talking— in class 
or out of class. So I didn't get on too well with 
her. Her name was Miss Chase. 

Glucki Then you went from there on to high school? 

Butler » Then, after my mother died, my father took on Maude 
Pitch, who had been my mother's intimate friend and 
had been a school teacher. She came as a housekeeper 
(with her mother) and, in the end, my father married 

She was a marvelous woman and an excellent 
disciplinarian. I went haywire after my mother died! 
I really took It terribly hard. I was really almost 
impossible to handle, but she could do it. She had me 
ride my pony out across the prairie to get calmed down. 

My father sold the dairy and we moved down onto the 
other side of Pueblo and he went into the cattle- 
raising business. He had thousands of acres of land 
and cattle — which, as you know, is one of the big 
Industries of Colorado and Texas. I mention that 
because I had something to do with the cattle industry 
in the Congress years later after I became a lobbyist. 

While we were there — we were there Just two or 
three years—my father found a family in Pueblo for me 
to live in and do housework while I went to school. 

Gluck: How old were you then? 

Butler: I was then fourteen years oldi I was a sophomore in 
high school. By the way, I was a horrible household 
worker. I broke dishes. I dropped everything. I 
didn't seem to have my heart in housework from the 
beginning. Then I hadn't been trained by my 
mother, anyway. 

Early Determinatloni the Seeds of the Future 

Butler* When I was fourteen years old, In a geometry class — a 
very mediocre geometry class—suddenly there walked 
into the room the first modem woman I had ever seen. 
Up to that point, my knowledge of women was of 
Mexican housewives and ranch women done up in calico 
dresses. I assumed that's the way everybody would 
look when they got older. This woman was beautiful. 
She was tall and stylishly dressed. She was from Ohio 


Butler i and a gifted teacher. My problem was, how could I 
get her to know I was around? 

I was at this point having a very bad time with 
my stepmother who'd gone Into the menopause period. 
She had had a child. She was In a terrible emotional 
and mental condition and she should never have been 
left In our family at all? she would threaten day after 
day to bum the house down— and she meant It. 

So I was going through this frightful situation* 
helping with the housework and everything, when this 
new teacher walked Into the room, I thought, "Maybe 
I can get her to help me." But how? She couldn't 
see ne at all. I was badly dressed. Honestly, I 
looked older than I do now. I was all round-shouldered 
and an unhappy child. There were all these pretty little 
girls with nice dresses that their mothers had made and 
everything, so she didn't know I was there. 

Then she began giving an original problem In 
geometry that students were to work at home. Everyday 
she would ask, "Who has the [answer to the] original 
problem?" Nobody ever had the answer. One night I was 
sitting in our kitchen, where we then lived on the 
edge of Pueblo, to do the homework. I said, "If I 
could get that original problem, she'd know I was 
there." I wasn't Interested In mathematics i I was 
interested in getting help. I was desparate! 

I sat at that kitchen table as I said, "I must 
get that problem." But It was Just Greek. I could not 
get it . So I went to bed and what do you think 
happened? I dreamed the answer! I saw it on the 
blackboard. So I woke up at once and memorized it. 

That morning downstairs at five in the morning I 
wrote it down and proved it. That day, the teacher 
said, "Who has the original problem?" My hand shot up 
in the air, and she said, "Why Jessie, have you got it?" 
I said, "Yes, I have." She said, "All right, go on. 
Put It up on the board." 

I don't think modesty at that point was my great 
asset. I strutted up to the board. And the answer 
was right. Well, wasn't I astonished! After that, 

five days in succession, I had the [answer to the") 
original problem. I had found how it worked. At the 


Butlers end of the week, the teacher called me to the desk and 
she said, "Now Jessie, I want you to tell me who's 
helping you with your original problems." I said, 
"Miss Mumford! I did them myself. I'm not that kind 
of a girl!" 

Prom then on, I knew she knew I was there. And 
It was she, In the end, who got me off to Smith College. 

Gluck: Did you have this housekeeping Job during the day or 
were you actually living In this home? 

Butler t We had now moved In [to Pueblo], It soon became evident 
that I was not a successful household assistant. My 
father saw I needed to be In the public schools In 
the city Instead of the horrid little schools out In 
the country that were very Inadequate. He sold his 
cattle ranch and moved to Pueblo and went into the real 
estate business. He was very successful in lt» he was 
a very clever man, 

Gluck: How long did you live at this household? 
Butler i Just during the school term. 

Gluck: Was it because they felt a girl should be trained to 
do this. The family didn't need the money, did they? 

Butler i Well, there was no other way to get me Into town and 

in that school except to live in somebody's home. Yes, 
he didn't have the money to pay for that. Anyway f 
where would I live? But if I was working In somebody's 
home, then I was properly sheltered and all the rest 
of it, you see. I only did that two years. Then 
he sold his ranch and moved into the edge of town. 
I had a bicycle and rode to school. I'm now in high 

Now, I'd like to tell Just one more incident. 
This incident about the geometry was so amusing! It 
was that very year that I met this beautiful teacher 
that I called on the principal of the high school one 
night. If ever a man looked like Abraham Lincoln, 
that was the man. He was a very great teacher and a 
very wise man. 

I called on him and asked him — remembering 
that my mother had said to get educated — what was 
the best woman's college in America? I did not want 


Butler: to go to a college where there were men, where I 
would be distracted from getting an education. I 
felt even then that getting an education was a Job In 
Itself and that it was better to put off companionship 
with men until after education was absorbed. 

The principal said Vassar was one of the best 
colleges, but It was for very rich girls. I said, "Well, 
I won't be rich. I don't want to go there." Then 
he said that Wellesley was a pretty good college but 
never Interested him especially. But Smith College 
was one of the most alert and modern colleges, he 
thought that was one of the best. I said, "Thank you 
very much. I will go there." 

He looked somewhat surprised. I didn't exactly 
look like a Smith College possibility. I was 111, and 
I was badly dressed, and so on. But that night, I 
dragged ten dollars out of my father on some excuse- 
ten dollars to him In those days was a lot of money— 
and I got myself enrolled In Smith College at the age 
of fourteen. 

Gluckt At fourteen? How did you do that? 

Butler « I wrote to find out what you had to do, and they said you 
had to send ten dollars to get enrolled. In those days, 
Smith College was very eager to get western girls. Not 
many western girls went to Smith. Secondly, they were 
admitting girls if they had high marks without taking 
an examination. So I wrote and found out that they 
needed ten dollars for enrollment, and I got myself 
enrolled. But nobody knew it. 

Then I figured, 
A" kind of student. 

"I'm not what they call an "all 
I can't read books, memorize what 
is in the books and write down what's In the books. 
I write down what I think about what's in the book," 
and that doesn't go down — either in high school or 
college, I found out later. So I figured that I 
was really going to have to slug like I'd done in 
geometry to secure high enough marks for entrance. 

For the next two yeara, I got up every morning 
at four o'clock to do homework so that no children or 
anybody around would bother me. you see. Later. I 


Butler: began staying at the high school and getting homework 
done in the library where It was quiet and peaceful. 
I ended up with very high marks. But, oh, It was a 
terrible strain. 

In the end, this Mr. Barrett, the principal, put 
me on the graduating program. My contribution to 
graduation was to recite Van Dyke's great essay, "The 
Lost Word." 

Then an Incident happened. My stepmother was so 
111 by this time and so unafflllated to her family life 
because of her Illness, that I had to get all my own 
clothes. I got a dressmaker myself and was getting a 
dress made to wear for this graduation. I had to walk 
down from our house across the prairie a mile and a 
half to get on a streetcar to get to the dressmaker's. 

It was about three weeks before graduation. Saturday 
morning It always was my Job to clean the house from 'top 
to toe. On this particular Saturday morning I had 
to go down and have my dress fitted. I told my step 
mother, I said, "I can't clean the house today. I've 
got to get my dress fitted." She said, "If you go 
out of that door this morning, you need never come 
back." I went upstairs and said, "What do you know 
about that! I'm all through here. I am kicked out." 
I was delighted. I was a typical eighteen — you know 
how the elghteens are now. 

So I put on my hat and coat, got my purse and 
without a word, walked out of the door, went down and 
got on the streetcar. One of my best friends, Lorena 
Underhlll lived In her mother's boarding house. I 
beat it to her boarding house to ask her If she'd take 
me in; $16 a week it was. She said, "Why yes, Jessie, 
we'd love to have you here." 

I was a wreck, physically, with the housework I 
had to do, the nervous strain I had been under, and 
the studying I was doing. I was in awful shape. 
I went down to the office and told my father what 
had happened t I holed In there for the summer and got 
rested and just really — it was wonderful. 

But suddenly I developed a terrible ulcer on my 
right eye, and there was no eye doctor in Pueblo. Now 

Butler t I'm going to tell you about two miracles. I believe 

In miracles. The first miracle happened In the middle 
of that summer when the first eye doctor that Pueblo 
had ever had arrived from Philadelphia. He was one 
of the great eye specialists, in the last stages of 

In those days, many people with T.B. would go to 
Colorado. If they arrived there In time, they were 
cured in that high altitude. So I beat it down to his 
office the minute I heard he was there. He said, H 0h, 
that's a terrible eye," but if I would come to his 
office every day and sit all morning so that he could 
treat It every half hour, he thought he could save my 
eye. So I did. That's the first miracle. And he did — 
he saved my eye. 

The second one was three weeks before I was to 
leave for Smith College. Nobody knew It except I talked 
a lot about going to Smith College. I had a room 
reserved and I was admitted. I Just had three or four 
weeks before I was to go when my stepmother commlted 

My father came for me and brought me home [from 
the boarding house in Pueblo]. The minister of our 
church called. By that time the news had got out 
that I was going to Smith College. He said that it 
was my duty to stay home and take care of my family, 
my brother and sister. 

Whereupon, the darling teacher arrived back for 
the fall session. Upon hearing of the tragedy in our 
home, she called on my father and said if he didn't 
get me out of there at once, I'd be dead in a year. 
That got me to Smith College. Three weeks later, 
I was on the transcontinental train headed for Northampton, 

Glucki Did your father give you the money for college? 

Butler t Of course he did. So what? He owed me that money, 
I'm telling you, for what I did to keep that family 
going and that food going — all through high school. 

Cluck i Did you have to fight about it or was he quite willing? 
Butlen When the teacher got through with him, he had nothing 


Butler: more to say. He said to her, "What will I do?" She 
said, "That's your problem, not hers." 

And then the second miracle happened. About ten 
days before I was to leave, a letter arrived from a 
fourth cousin of my father's from Illinois. She was 
In Denver and wanted to come to visit us. I said to my 
father, "We can't!" Our house was hectic and the whole 
situation was so awful. He said, "But I always liked 
Bally Bonham and I'd love to see her." He wrote and 
Invited her to come. 

We went down to the train one afternoon, and the 
sweetest little woman I ever laid eyes on got off. She 
was five feet two, had lovely soft brown eyes, was 
beautifully dressed and was Just a darling. So she 
came out to our home. The next morning I explained 
I had to leave to go to the oculist. She said, "That's 
all right. Don't worry, I'll be all right." 

That afternoon, when I came home, there was the 
smell of food In the air. The kitchen floor was waxed, 
the old kitchen stove was blacked, there was a white 
tablecloth and the silver was cleaned. We sat down 
to the first really decent meal we'd had in months. 

At the meal I said, "What have you been doing all 
your life?" "Well," she said, "I stayed home with my 
father and mother on this farm. First my mother died, 
and then last month my father died. I don't know what 
to do. I have to have a home," she said with tears in 
her eyes. I said, "Well, there's a home here needs 
somebody like that," 

I went out to my father sitting on the porch and 
I said, "She says she wants a home, Father." "Yes," 
he said, "I thought about that." The next morning he 
had a new housekeeper. She helped me buy some clothes 
and a trunk and got me off to Smith College. That 
was miracle number two. 

Gluck: Did your father object to your going in the beginning? 

Butler » No. Well, he made fun of me when I kept talking in 

high school. He said that most girls he'd known would 
say, "I'm going to get educated, get married and have 
babies." But not Jessie! She's going to get educated 
in high school and go to Smith College. So, he knew 
that it was in the air, of course. 


Gluck: Did your brother later go to college also? 

Butler: No. He went awhile to Dartmouth. I got him to Dartmouth, 
but he was not a scholar and not Interested In studying. 
In the end he married a girl with a lot of ranch money 
and had a big ranch down near Boone, Colorado. 

Gluck: And your younger sister, did she go to college? 

Butler: No, she didn't. That's another long story. She was 
the sweetest and least ambitious member of the whole 
family, and very domestic. A very beautiful child. 
I think she must have Inherited her looks from our 
mother. She had blue eyes and she was just a beautiful 
little girl and very sweet and gracious. 

After I got to Boston, when I was working with 
the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission, she got 
Into a tangle at home. She wanted to do something. 
She did want to be a musician. She went to Chicago to 
try to do that, and that didn't work out. She'd gone 
back home. I wrote and asked her what did she want to 
do and she said If she couldn't be a musician, she 
wanted to be a nurse. 

I said, "In Boston we have the greatest hospital 
of America, the Massachusetts General." I sent her the 
money and she came on and went In as a nurse and became 
a great success. 

Later, she came to England when I had a very serious 
Illness. On the boat she met a brilliant Harvard 
professor. They had a love affair on the boat and 
she married him; went on and lived at Harvard and had 
a very wonderful life. 

Gluck: You were the only one of the three children who had a 
college education? 

Butlert That's right. 

Gluck: Were there other girls In that town who went to college? 

Butler: Maybe there was one more girl who did, but I often 
think about my father who had taken the whole thing 
not very seriously. In the first place, he didn't see 
why I couldn't go to school In Colorado Instead of 


Butler: Northampton, Massachusetts! he didn't see that importance. 

After I graduated, I was walking along the street 
with him one day and he met one of his business 
associates. This man said, "Well, Is this the daughter 
who graduated from Smith College?" My father said, "Yes." 
He said to my father, "Well, how did you happen to 
send her to Smith College?" My father said, "Well, I 
thought the best was none too good for her." So that 
was that. 



Glucki Were there other girls In that town who had been going 
to college, or were you among the first? 

Butlen I was among the first. Of course, to go to Smith College 
and get Into that beautiful New England cultural 
atmosphere Just completely altered my life. It 
took me out of that pioneer environment that I'd come 
from and got me Into the cultural world of America— It 
changed my life. 

Glucks What was your course of study like at Smith? 

Butlen That's Interesting. In Junior year I enrolled In the 
first class In psychology that was taught In America — 
the very first class. Up until then I had to take 
another year of Latin and Greek — subjects that were 
presented from high school. So I took psychology, 
philosophy, aesthetics, ethics and logic. I didn't 
understand philosophy very well, but I adored It and 
took every course In that department. 

But I went crazy over psychology and In the end It 
became a tremendous part of my life later In London. 
(I attended the Tavlstock Clinic In Psychology there 
which was conducted by Dr. Jones, the Freudian, and 
Dr. James J. Hadfleld, the first Junglan psychotherapist. 
Four years of study with Dr. Hadfleld followed, a 
study that changed my life and character.) So that 
psychology class at Smith was partly responsible for 
helping me to find my Identify In life. 

I did want to learn to write, so I took a writing 
course. We had a teacher whose special Interests were 
In students who could do poetry and fiction. I 
wasn't that type of student. Once or twice I wrote 


Butler i something that she said had a possibility, but I 
didn't get very far with It. 


I was dying for a speech coarse but there were 
no speech courses! There are none at Smith College 
yet. All they did was to test you. If you didn't 
stutter, then you didn't need speech. I went Into 
the only speech class that they offered. It concen 
trated entirely on enunciation and diction. I had a 
voice you could hear a mile, what I wanted to learn 
was how to reach an audlencei how to get material oven 
how to communicate; how to express Iti how to organize 
Ideas. There was no such class there. 

I don't know what else I took. I took a lot of 
history. I took a course In Bible study that was very 

I wouldn't make any dates at Smith at all. 
Amherst boys go up there, and boys from Yale, and Harvard, 
and Dartmouth. Many students had dates for weekends. 
I wasn't going to get sidetracked with dates. While 
they were out dating, I was In the library. That 
Smith library was so beautiful and filled with great 
literature. I read all of Bernard Shaw and all of 
E.G. Wells. 

During those years the girls would want me to go 
to dances and parties, but I said, "No. I'm getting 
educated. I haven't time." I never had a date till 
Junior year when we had our Junior prom, which you 

always do. 

One of my best friends from Great Neck, Long 
Island said her boy was coming up to Northampton. He 
wanted to bring his boyfriend. So she roped me In 
on the Junior prom. His name was Horace Lyon of Lyon's 
tooth powder. He was a very fine young man. He 
later came to Colorado to marry me, but I was still 
too busy getting educated and getting a career 
started so I didn't want to get married until later on. 

Gluckt Were there any particular teachers at Smith that you 
remember having a great Influence on you? This Is a 
period when there were a lot of socialists around, 
weren't there? 

Rutler i Frankly, I was disappointed in my teachers. In my 
opinion, they weren't very interesting. What 


Butleri longed for was women teachers to give me a plan for my 
span of life. We sat around our rooms for hours at a 
time, "How are we going to carry on with this Intellectual 
life and yet have a home and children? 11 There was 
nobody there who had done Iti there was nobody there 
Interested In homes and children and there was no 

As a matter of fact, It was not a healthy environ 
ment In a way. There was a great deal of homosexual 
relations going on there. Then we had a terrible 
tragedy In our class that nobody had coped with. 
Now, that wouldn't happen today, of course. I'm sure 
all those colleges have psychiatric departments and 
psychiatric help. 

There was a girl In our class who was a very 
masculine type of girl who was head of the basketball 
program, a marvellous player, and another who was a 
very beautiful, sweet, delicate, typically feminine 
girl. The two of them lived together. 

The one girl went up to Dartmouth for a weekend — 
she loved boyfriends so she went up to a Dartmouth to 
dance a great deal. A boy In Dartmouth fell In love 
with her — a perfectly brilliant, gifted young boy. 
But her roommate was determined to break that up. 
When the summer came (I think It was In Junior year) 
they went to Chicago where the roommate lived. 
This young man also lived In Chicago. They found 
out that his mother had been In a mental Institution. 
She persuaded her roommate to cancel the engagement. 

When they came back to college that fall, he wrote 
frantic letters. He felt that his fiance was being 
Influenced. The roommate got her to send his letters 
back unopened. This lovely girl was also an actress. 
We had Midsummernlght's Dream for our play that year 
and she had the lead part of the lovely girl that 
danced and sang — I can't remember what she was called* 

One day we were all looking out of the window — 
the whole campus was rocked with this love affair 
because the young man had come to town and was hanging 
around, trying to see his fiance* She was sneaking 
out the back door, dodging him. We thought that was 
terribly exciting and a great love affair, but nobody 


Butlen else took any Interest In It or knew what to do or 
tried to do anything. 

As we leaned out of the window one day, we saw 
her coming along when he met her. She was swinging 
along gay as a lark. He had his hat palled down over 
his eyes. They wallced aoross our building Into the 
center of the campus where he shot her and himself on 
the campus before our eyes. 

I was very critical of that affair. I said, 
"That's what's the matter with this college, there's no 
humanity In It. There's no guidance for women, the 
guidance that we need." There Isn't any there yet, 
much, I'll tell you tnat. 

Glucki Were the faculty male? 

Butlen No, there were a lot of women on the faculty, but they 
were mostly unmarried women. Some of them, I expect, 
were very good teachers. I know who my greatest 
teacher was. It was the one who taught psychology. 
He was simply great. I Just adored the whole thing. 
I didn't fall for many of the othersi they didn't even 
touch my high school teacher. 

Gluck: The main problem was, then, that you wanted to still be 
able to pursue some sort of career or Interest and 
figure out how you could do both that and become 
married and have a family. 

Butlen Yes. How could I coordinate this? Prom all I knew 
of married life, you spent your life having babies, 
washing "diadles" [diapers] and cooking. Therefore, 
how were you going to keep up with your Intellectual 
life? No one had the answer i they haven't the answer 
yet. But I found the answer In London, and I'm giving 
a lecture on it next Thursday out at Cal State In 
Northrldge [California State University]. 

Gluck i Did most of the other girls feel this way or did they 
Just assume they were going to get married and forget 
about any career? 

Butlen They weren't as upset about it as I was. I upset them 
a lot, you know. You see, my mother had said, "Get 
educated." She didn't say, "Be a housekeeper." I 
had no Image of being a housekeeper, except inside 
me I wanted to have a babyi I wanted to have children. 


Gluck: So at Smith, you already had a very strongly developed 
feminist consciousness? 

Butler i Right. Yes. I was a feminist from the very beginning. 

Gluck: Did you have any idea what it was you wanted to do at 
that point? 

Butlert Well, something happened that guided me. I have been 
blessed all my life with running into that marvelous 
guidance. In Colorado, out on a ranch, there was an 
Englishman, a graduate of Oxford University. He had a 
red-haired daughter that he had entirely educated 
until she entered the senior year in the Central High 
School . 

This red-haired girl rode horseback, brought up 
on this ranch. He had the philosophy that a girl should 
be herself, do what she wanted to. Typical English 
people are a lot more liberal about women, incidentally, 
than we are in our country. We're still held down by 
the pioneer image that the men had to have a woman run 
a home or they couldn't have homes. The British have 
all kinds of ways of running homes i they don't depend 
on one woman to do the whole thing, you see. 

He'd brought up this girl, Mary Thornton, a 
brilliant, beautiful girl. She went into the high 
school just for the senior year to graduate because 
she wanted to go back east and be trained as a nurse. 
The one girl she picked out for a friend was myself. 
She couldn't see anybody else. 

She began inviting me out to their ranch for 
weekends In senior year. In the process, I began telling 
them what my home problem was. This Englishman's whole 
home was filled with English things along with an 
English wife, of course. 

The reason he went to Colorado was that he was the 
younger son of a titled family. In England in those 
days, it still is so, the older son Inherits the title 
and the estate and the younger son has to be either a 
minister or a soldier. Cholmondeley Thornton didn't 
want to be a minister and he didn't want to be a soldier, 
so he came to America to be what he wanted to be. He 
had this ranch. 


Butlen When I was a sophomore In college , I went out to 

his ranch for the weekend. He had okayed my getting to 
Smith, too, of course. He said what was I going to 
do when I got through and I said most of the Smith 
girls teach. "Well," he said, "you aren't going to 
be any good as a teacher, a typical teacher fitting 
Into the machinery of teaching. But your father Is a 
brilliant businessman and you've probably inherited a 
lot of his ability. Why don't you spend your summers 
learning shorthand-typewriting?" 


Well," I said, "I've never heard of a Smith girl 
learning shorthand typing." I was beginning to be very 
top- lofty, you see. 

Anyway, when I got back after Junior year, my 
father and stepmother decided that as I was having this 
vast sum of money spent on me — twelve hundred a year— 
that in the summer I could come home and take the 
place of the weekly cleaning lady. You know, why not? 
Instead of having a weekly cleaner do all over the 
house and do all the washing and ironing, I would do It. 
At that point, I felt called upon to learn shorthand 
typewriting — right away . 

I beat It down to the little school there. The 
minute I hit that typewriter, I found I didn't know 
how to spell. So I began getting a little respectful. 
Finally, I worked like a dog on it. I saw that It was 
a tremendous thing. It was hard work. The next summer 
I went back and put in another summer on it. 

When I went back to Smith and told my friends 
at the end of the summer Just off of their summer 
beaches what I was doing, they asked "why did I want 
to learn shorthand-typewriting, and Just be an office 
secretary?" I mean, really, a Smith girl a secretary! 
By this time, I'd gotten very respectful of the whole 

I'd like to add a comment about co-education 
colleges. I am dead against co-education during 
college years for my type of student. Being immature, 
as many college students my age were, mentally and 
physically, such students are not ready to struggle 
with a lively social life as well as with the kind 
of intense study that goes with a college education. 

Butler t Besides, in a woman's college like Smith, the 

entire emphasis of the curriculum and environment is 
adjusted to the characteristics of the single sex, the 
only important sex there. Had there been men students 
in that college, the women would have become a second 
sex down the line. 

That would have altered my life and my development 
as I am sure it would do for many others. I needed to 
be in an environment where studies and Interests were 
primary. This fact in later life gave me the courage 
and desire to take positions that were vital and 
Important. I have often noticed how few women have 
the courage to speak up when it's necessary. They 
have never learned nor have they found out how important 
it is for them to stand up and speak. 



Butler i When I went back to Pueblo after I graduated, I 

suggested that I work In my father's office and keep 
his office work going. He'd never had a secretary. 
Then I would take In shorthand-typewriting from the 
lawyers In the building, and that way I'd earn some 
extra money. He agreed and I did a lot — not very well, 
I'm not a good typist, yet. But I did earn a lot of 
money, quite a lot. There was no typist there, 
certainly none that had had a college education. 

At the end of that second summer, I told my father 
I wanted to go back to the Smith reunion. I made him 
pay me, too. He didn't like that very well either, and 
neither did my stepmother. I lived at home and ate at 
home but I didn't do very much work. 

I went back to the reunion. Then I heard that 
one of the English teachers had opened an employment 
bureau for Smith graduates that weren't teachers. I 
beat it to her office and I said, "I hear that you have 
this employment bureau." She said, "What can you do, 
Jessis?" I said, "I'm a legal secretary." She said, 
"WHAT? You're the first girl to enter that room with 
a business training! I've got a hundred Jobs for you." 

"Where are they?" "All over the place," she said. 
"I haven't got anybody to fill them." One of them was 
with the MacMillan Publishing Company on Fifth Avenue, 
as an assistant to the head of the college tertbook 
department . 

Gluckt That was in New York? 

Butler i That was in New York. By September of that year, 1911 • 



Gluck : 

Gluck : 

Gluck i 
Butler i 

I started my work on Fifth Avenue with a secretary 
and file clerk — I never touched a typewriter. But 
he wouldn't have anyone there who didn't know how to 
typewrite because that was considered a business 
training. My salary was $14 a week. 

What did you do exactly at that Job? 

I was assistant to the head of the college textbook 
department. That meant that every time a college book 
was published, I had to find the courses that book 
would fit. I had In back of my desk four hundred 
college catalogues. I had to write to the man that 
had the course and tell him about the book and, "would 
he like a sample copy." Of course, If he liked the 
sample copy, four hundred books, or how ever many 
would go to that school, you see. It was very fascinating. 

I didn't even know how to write a letter. Here I'd 
taken this English course, but I couldn't even write a 
simple letter. My boss had to teach me to write those 
letters. He was quite happy, though, with the way I 
did it. I had a secretary and file clerk. It was 
terribly hard work. I had to punch a time clock, too, 
like all the lower- paid employees. 

What was your work schedule like? 
hour week? 

Was it a forty- eight 

Oh yes. It fitted in with the publishing business. And, 
of course, it turned out to be a great experience to 
get that Inside look into one of the biggest publishing 
firms in New York — and a British firm. 

Were there other women working there, or were they 
only the secretaries? 

Oh yes. Oh no. Well, then I said to him, "Fourteen 
dollars a week is going to be difficult for me to live 
on in New York City. When do I make more money?" He 
said, "At Christmas," if I would make good. At 
Christmas, my envelope had another dollar in it. I 
took it in and said, "Is this my increase?" I held it 
up. He said, "Well, Miss Haver, I think you take a 
very unfortunate attitude. I came here for $10 a 
week," I said, "I'm told now you're getting twenty- 
four hundred a year. How soon will I get that?" 


Butler t Well, really, Miss Haver, we have Jessie Reid 

here. She has edited whole series of books* She's 
been here twenty-five years. She gets $25 a week and 
she's a Wellesley graduate." Twenty-five dollars a week, 
you see, after twenty-five years was the status. 

I met Jessie Reid In the restroom later and I said, 
"Miss Reid, do you know what you're doing to the women 
in this firm?" — with my knees knocking. She said, "What 
do you mean?" I said, "Every time we want more money — 
I*m getting $14 a week — we're told about you and how 
you've been here twenty-five years and you're getting 
$25 a week and have edited whole series of books." 

"WHAT?" she said. "What do you mean?" I said, 
"I'm telling you what happens and what you're doing 
to us." She said, "Why, Miss Haver, I have a little 
apartment around the corner. I have no family. I 
love this sort of work. I was born for it. I never 
dreamed that I was setting a standard for this whole 
firm. That's terrible." 

She promptly went up to the president and spoke as 
follows: "I have come to tell you that beginning next 
Monday, I want $600 a year and I want royalties for all 
the books I've edited." to which the president angrily 
answered, "Miss Reid! Have you lost your mind?" 
"No," she said, "I've Just found it." She was a 
marvelous little quiet type of woman. "Well," he 
said, "you're fired as of next Monday." You know 
what happened? The next Monday, five publishers were 
there in the office after her. She went out at 
five thousand a year. 

What I did was to get Jessie Ried a $5000 salary 
and then I prepared myself to be moved out as a result 
of my efforts. So I walked up Fifth Avenue where the 
five women's colleges had started an employment service 
for college women who were not teachers [and told 
them about the situation"). They said, "<5h, goody! We 
knew this was going on there at that company and 
we're tickled to death to see you. We have another 
gorgeous job for you." (I now realize that the college 
employment office must have been responsible for sending 
the editors to the MacKillan Company to secure the 
services of Jessie Reid. I never thought of that 
before I ) 


Butleri The new Job was to be the first secretary of the 
Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia. Instead 
of fourteen dollars a week, I was to get eighty-five 
dollars a month. I was to be allowed to live In 
Whlttler Hall, the lovely Columbia dormitory — quite a 
change from the horrible cheap boarding house that I 
was Inhabiting near the MaoMlllan Company. 

There I stayed for two years. Then, again, there 
was a very bad employment situation— from the feminist 
point of view — that I couldn't take. I didn't know 
I was a feminist In those days, but I knew what was 
endurable. I didn't Intend to die on the Job. So 
I went again to my employment office on Fifth Avenue. 
Fortunately they had a Job In Boston to be a statistician 
and an Investigator for the Massachusetts Minimum Wage 
Commission. On this Job I was to get $1300 a year. 

So, Amy Hewes, executive secretary of the Massa 
chusetts Minimum Wage Commission and a professor at 
Mount Holyoke College Interviewed me. I was Invited to 
come to Boston the next month. 

Gluck: That was about 1915? 

Butler: No, that was about 1913* I stayed In Boston four 

years where I was taught statistics and Investigation 
skills j working to bring about a minimum wage for 
women in the state of Massachusetts. This was the era 
when women were beginning to work outside their homes j 
but they were the most exploited workers that ever 
existed. They were getting around four dollars a week 
in candy factories, in laundries and in Five and Dime 
stores. The Massachusetts Consumers' League had 
secured passage of a law that allowed the employees 
(of the Minimum Wage Commission) to copy payrolls. So 
I was sent out to big factories and industries to copy 
payrolls and then I was taught how to take those facts 
and put them Into statistical tables. It was a very 
great education and training era for me. 

I wanted more than anything else to help women. I 
became dedicated, in a way, to the woman's world and 
the woman's needs. Of course, that dedication 
was really backed by the tragedy of my own family lifei 
and my mother's death when I was ten, and how I had 
lived in that valley where no woman in any family who 
gave birth to their children lived to bring them up. 
I had lived in an area, you see, where there were no 


Butler i phones, no doctors, no cars— It was the primitive 
life of early America. (Yet it was in this early 
pioneer life that our great nation was built.) 

I had seen and suffered personally terrible 
experiences as a girl and young woman. I began to be 
curious then because, you see, I'm a Libra. A 
Libra person's keynote is balance and Justice. 

I didn't think it was Justice for women to suffer 
like that. Now I was finding women suffering outside 
the home, working in industry at starvation wages I 
All down the line, it seemed to me, that it was a 
rough world for women. I wanted to find out why, and to 
help change it. 

Cluck: So when you saw the kind of wages these women were 
getting it really had quite an effect on you? 

Butler t I saw how they had to try to survive. Most of them 

stayed with their families. Of course, they were not 
paying for their keep with these wages. Or, they had 
men friends that they lived with. They had to do one 
or the other. Neither one was Justice because they 
were not carrying their own weight. They couldn't 
earn enough to survive without help from either their 
families or their boyfriends. I didn't think that 
was Just. 

I remember, of course, that was the era—and 
this you need to know — when Edward A. Pllene built the 
biggest, most beautiful woman's store in Boston. All 
this shouting about a minimum wage had reached his 
ear. Prom the beginning, he paid the highest minimum 
wage that was ever paid, $8 a week. That was unheard 
of in those days, when the women were getting $4- and 
$5 a week. Edward A. Pilene paid $8 a week minimum. 

So the finest saleswomen came to his store. His 
store was beautiful; they had a big organ that played 
music all the time, and all these beautiful, attractive, 
skilled saleswomen were there to serve the customers. 
And so this store thrived! And on good minimum wages! 
Everybody was happy. That helped, too. 

Blucki By the time you left Boston, the minimum wage had 
already been established? 

Butler t Yes, it had become an accepted fact. Quite a number 


Butler: of boards were at work setting up new standards of 
wages. I left there to become an employee of the 
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, 
B.C. at a much higher salary. 



The Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Gluck: Why did you decide to leave Boston? 

Butlen World War I was on. I heard that the U.S. Bureau of 

Labor Statistics was looking for statisticians to do a 
survey of the cost of living in Washington, D.C. I 
needed a higher salary. I wrote out my experience 
and was immediately Invited down for an interview. I 
landed the job, so now I was under civil service. The 
experience in Boston had been invaluable. 

Gluck: What was this new Job paying? 

Butler: I found myself in Washington, D.C. at $1500 a year. 
Federal employment is always valuable » opportunities 
to grow are everywhere. Also, World War I provided a 
rare opportunity to go into U.S. government employment, 
Immediately, of course, I became interested in the 
woman's suffrage movement which, at that time, was 
working to get a resolution through the United States 
Senate . 

Alice Paul, leader of the National Woman's Party, 
had a lovely house right on the edge of Lafayette 
Square across from the White House. There was a 
big dining room. A great many of my luncheons were 
there when I worked in the United States Bureau of 
Labor Statistics. 

That was a fascinating Job. We had to go all 
over Washington, where civil servants lived. 
Washington is a city of enormous crowds of civil 
service workers i nearly a million workers were living 


Butler i there in sort of small, brick row houses. They're 
very common to that part of the world. 

We had to go out and ring doorbells to get the 
families' budget i what their Income was and how It 
was spent. We were trying to determine If the civil 
service people were getting enough to live on. Those 
were the statistics that we were collecting. I knew 
now how to make statistical tables and how to Inter 
view people i I am especially good at that sort of 

I was there two years. I Just adored It. The 
war was on. It was a great experience to be Involved 
In that kind of a statistical survey. 

Gluck: When you came to Washington, was that your first 
association with the suffrage movement? 

Butleri The first close association. 

In Boston, I went to a lot of meetings, also to a 
great many meetings on birth control. Margaret 
Sanger was always coming up there and lecturing because 
they had a very bad law in Massachusetts and no 
Information on birth control. I went several times 
to hear Mrs. Pankhurst from England speak — every time 
she came there. I went to all the big suffrage meetings 
in Boston while I was there, but I couldn't do much 
about it at that time because I was busy earning a 

In Washington, I began going to Alice Paul's 
place. That's where I met Hazel Hunklns and all these 
other people. 

The Consumers League » 

Minimum Wages t the Meat Packing 

Gluck: When did you start your relationship with the Consumers 

Butleri At the end of two years, I had become very friendly 

with the secretary of the Consumers League of Washington, 
Mrs. Zold. I knew the Consumers League background 
from Boston because that was one of the finest leagues 


Butler i they had. I admired themj I knew the work they were 
doing, I knew their whole story, the background and 

Finally, this woman decided she had to go somewhere, 
or there was some reason why she couldn't carry on 
and they offered me the Job. 

Gluck: Do you recall how much you earned at that Job? 

Butler: I had a good salary; It was better than I'd been getting 
all along. But, of course, It was dependent on my 
raising the money to pay It, which was a little awkward. 

I liked It because I was my own boss and could 
run the whole show. I had my own office In the Munsey 
Building, and at times I had secretaries to come and 
help me run the office. I set up meetings and lectured, 
not very much lecturing because I hadn't been trained 
to speak and I didn't know how. But I did speak. 

Gluck » It was basically a one-woman operation then? 
Butler: Yes. I was the woman. 

I had an executive committee , like all such 
organizations. I was the only paid employee. They got 
up meetings and I got up meetings and we raised money 
and so on. 

There were very talented women on the executive 
committee of that Consumers League, brilliant Washington 
women that otherwise I would not have known at all. 
One can live In Washington their whole life and not meet 
such women. Among them were the two sisters- In-law 
of Justice Brandels (the Goldmark sisters). 
They were prominent In the New York Consumers 
League, as well, Florence Kelley, of course, kept 
coming down to Washington due to her keen Interest 
In the U.S. government. 

Gluck i You knew Florence Kelley? 

Butler i Oh, yes! She was the national president of It. 

So, I began doing some very successful work at 
raising money. I've forgotten what the Issues were then 

Butler » except to get a minimum wage law for the District of 
Columbia. You see, although the number of employees 
in Washington was not large and there weren't any great 
factories and industry there, the women were being 
exploited, alright! — in laundries, and stores, and 

In order to get the minimum wage for the District 
of Columbia the U.S. Congress had to pass a minimum 
wage law — it is they who govern Washington, D.C. A 
minimum wage law that was passed by the United States 
Congress would set an important precedent for the rest 
of the country. 

To get a minimum wage law through the U.S. 
Congress was a little different from getting it through 
the Massachusetts state legislature or any other state 

The Goldmarks worked with Justice Brandels to 
draft the law. Then I was asked to present the bill, 
as soon as possible, to a legislator who was sympathetic 
to the issue. Justice Brandeis thought it would take 
two years to get it through, but it went through in six 
months, to the astonishment of everybody! 

In a way, it's a very Interesting story because I 
was really at the head of the procession of women working 
outside their homes and with the U.S. government. I was 
running into all the problems headlong. Being of 
pioneer stock from Colorado, I was a pioneer up there, 
as well. It was great. I never had so much fun. 

Gluck: Can you tell me more about how you worked to get the 
Minimum Wage bill through Congress? 

Butlen As it happened, the man that we invited to Introduce 
the bill into the lower house of the national legis 
lature was Congressman Edward Keating from Pueblo, 
Colorado, my home town. He knew my father, but I had 
never met him before. Congressman Keating was a very 
broad-minded legislator, one of the very rare men 
at that time who had a social conscience and who 
understood the background of the Minimum Wage law. He 
Jumped at the chance to Introduce the bill into the 
lower house. Then, we secured Senator Henry Hollls 
of New Hampshire to introduce the bill to the Senate. 
He was very close to Woodrow Wilson, the president 
of the U.S. at that time. The Democrats were ruling 


Butler: the Senate and the president was, of course, a 
Democrat . 

So there we were with our little bill, now safely 
introduced into the Congress. My nert Job was to go up 
to the Capitol to learn how to be a lobbyist. Certainly 
the rules of legislation had to be studied at once. 

I found out that the first man to be consulted 
was Congressman Ben Johnson of Kentucky. He was 
chairman of the House District Committee, that governed 
Washington. He was considered an old bear where 
women were concerned. 

He loathed having women clattering down the marble 
corridors of the House Office Building. He loathed 
advanced human ideas about things like minimum wages 
and women getting a living wage. Besides women had no 
rights in the House Office Building as they were not 

In fact, he was the heartbreak of the city because 
no decent enlightened legislation for Washington could 
get through Ben Johnson. He seemed Just impossible. 

I remember the day that Raullne Goldmark asked 
me, "What are you going to do about Ben Johnson? How 
are you going to get around him?" They seemed to 
think, somehow, that maybe I'd find a way, but they 
weren't sure. I will never forget the day I first 
called on him in his office. 

Of course he had women working quietly in the 
rear of his office but any woman with the status of a 
lobbyist was Just like a red flag to a bull. This I 
knew o 

I had a cute little cotton dress i it had red and 
white little fine checks — you know we used to always 
wear those checked dresses. It had a ruffle right 
down the front — all starched and looking gay and fresh. 

So I walked into Congressman Ben Johnson's 
back office as the door was open. There he sat at 
his great huge desk looking very Important. "Congressman," 
I said, "may I please speak to you for a few minutes?" 
I was very courteous. Looking up, he growled, "What 
are you doing here?! Why aren't you home having 


Butler « babies where you belong?! 11 

I knew the fate of our minimum wage bill hung on 
my answer. "Well, Congressman," I answered in a soft 
tone, "you see, it's an awkward situation? you're 
supposed to have a husband before you have a baby, 
and I haven't got a husband." "Well why don't you 
get one?" he said. "Well," I said, "Congressman, 
I would like one, but so far all the good ones are 
already married." Of course, he was already married 
too. "Oh, that's tough," he said. 

His voice changed, his tone, and he said, "Well, 

come on and sit down and tell me what I can do for 

you. I'll have to help you, I can see that." I 
said, "Yes, Congressman, I do need help." 

I started talking to him about this minimum wage 
bill and the women down in the five and ten cent store 
downtown that were getting $4 a week and having to 
either live on their families or live with a man» 
and how we wanted to change that. He said, "What 
can I do for you?" "Well, Congressman," I said, "if 
you'll Just set a date for the hearing, I will see that 
the leading employers of all the stores are there » I 
happen to know Edward Pllene from Boston. He's now 
in town. He has this huge store where all his employees 
are on minimum wages, and he's also been president of 
the International Businessmen's Association. He's 
widely known. If I can get him to appear at your 
hearing and these leading store men are there you'd 
be on the front page of every newspaper In Washington. 
How would you like that?" 

"Well," he said, "that would be all right. When 
do you want your date?" He set the date. I walked 
right downtown In this gay mood I was in at this point 
and there was Edward Pilene and he said, "I would be 
honored to speak at your hearing." So I walked right 
back to the congressman and I said, "He's coming." 
"Well," he said, "this begins to look Interesting," 

, . 

We had the hearing and it was Jammed with the 
leading employers of Washington. Edward Pllene made 
the first speech and it was gorgeous. He told them how 
it paid to pay women well. They brought in the business, 
and that's what you're after, business. A well-paid 
nappy, gay, well-cared-for, well-fed clerk in your 


Butler* store brings In the business. They saw that point. 
Gluck: Was this minimum wage for Just women? 

Butler i Just women. The men, of course, In all those areas were 
organized, but there were no women 1 s organizations at 
all. No woman would ever have gotten a job In Washington 
If she'd belonged to a clerk's organization, or a labor 

I've forgotten how long It was— but It was no 
time before he had that bill through the House. The 
women couldn't believe It! Of course, Florence Kelley 
came down and spoke, but they just couldn't believe 
It i this thing they had fought and struggled for for 
years with such anguish would Just fly through the 
U.S. Congress with no opposition. 

I went up to Congressman Johnson afterwards to 
thank him. "Well," he said, "you know, Miss Haver, 
I have a lot of Influence around here." "Oh, Congress 
man," I said, "that's why I came to you first. We 
all know that." "Well," he said, "If there's ever 
anything you want around here. Just let me know. 
I'm at your service." With that, I bade him goodbye 
and beat It over to the Senate. 

Senator Hollls said, "We can't get that bill when 
It comes up Into our committee unless you can get 
Senator Reed Smoot to okay It." 

Gluck: Who was that? 

Butler: Reed Smoot was the most difficult man In the United 
States Senate. He was head of the Rules Committee! 
he sat right down on the center aisle so that not a 
single bill could go anywhere unless he okayed It. 

It was at a time when Boles Penrose of Pennsylvania, 
one of the worst politicians that ever was in the 
United States Senate, was practically running the 
Senate. There was a terrible situation there for any 
kind of legislation at all. It was one or the most 
corrupt Senates they ever had. Any legislation of a 
humane order was doomed from the beginning. 

Anyway, the thing to do was call on Senator Reed 
Smoot. The president of the District Consumers 


Butlen League was Mrs. Edward Costlgan, whose husband was 

head of the Tariff Commission In Washington. He had 
been Governor of Colorado. They were both brilliant, 
and dedicated leaders. They decided that our 
president had better go with me to call on Senator 
Reed Smoot. 

I don't know whether they thought he was going 
to chop my head off, or what. I knew he wouldn't because 
Reed Smoot was from Salt Lake City. He was one of the 
leading Mormons, a very brilliant, clever leglslatori a 
tall, handsome man— -a gentleman. 

Anyway, Mrs. Costlgan — who was a lovely, sweet, 
gracious woman — and I descended on his office. We 
had an appointment . As we came In he rose graciously 
from his desk. "How do you do, ladles?" He had a 
seat at one side of his desk for me and one for Mrs. 

I said, "Senator, we have come up to talk to you 
about this minimum wage bill. It's now gone through the 
House and so, of course, we look forward to your 
help to get It through the Senate." Whereupon, he 
rose suddenly from his desk and began to pound his desk 
so that everything on his desk danced. He said, "You 
women, with all this socialistic legislation! You 
know what? I'd like to be president of the United 
States when all this legislation gets in there. I'd 
Just like to be president. I could be the greatest 
dictator you ever saw with this kind of legislation 
coming up!" 

Mrs* Costlgan commenced to tremble i she looked 
at the senator with horror, as the desk was dancing 
with objects on it. But I Just looked at him and 
smiled sweetly as I said, "You know, Senator, I wish you 
could be president of the United States." "Well!" 
he said, as he sat down with a bump. "Why would you 
like to see me as president?" You see, that wasn't a 
very smart remark > I knew he was dying to be president, 
and he was capable of being president. He was a very 
great legislator, but he was a Mormon. At that time, 
our country was a little stuffy about appointing people 
with such a strong religious background as that . 

Then again he said, "Why would you like to see me 
as president?" "You see, Senator," I answered, "if you 


Butler t were president, and issues like this came up, you'd 
Just have to look at both sides of the question 
and you're not used to doing that. Besides, this would 
make of you a greater leader than you are now." 
"Well," he said, "what do you want me to do, then?" 

I said, "When that bill comes in, would you Just 
pick up your things and leave your seat until we can 
get it into Senator Hollls's committee?" He said, "All 
right. 1*11 be glad to do it. I'm glad to have met you 
ladles." We shook hands and left. 

Mrs. Costigan could hardly walk out of the roomi 
she was so frightened at what had happened. [Laughter] 
But everything was all right. As the bill reached the 
senator's desk I saw him gather up his papers and walk 
out. In no time, Senator Hollls had a hearing that was 
equally impress! ve» we didn't have to work so hard for 
it because he was a very generous and enlightened man 
from New Hampshire and one of the great leaders of the 
United States Senate. The bill went flying through. 
The president signed it within six months instead of two 
years . 

Gluck: So that was the first major piece of legislation for 
which you lobbied? 

Butler « In the process, you have to remember, that you must almost 
live up at that Capitol. I was there in the Senate 
gallery for weeks watching the men and studying the 
program. You have to really absorb that whole mechanism 
Into your system. But I never loved anything In my 
life [like that]! I was completely fulfilled, as a woman 
even, for after all, I was helping women) I seemed Just 
complete mentally i everything I had in me I seemed 
to be using and using effectively. I didn't know 
where it came from, but that was the story. 

Gluck t Were there other women lobbyists? 

Butler i Very few, and they were the suffrage lobbyists. Alice 
Paul was carrying on her picketing of the White House, 
against the law of the city. Mrs. Carrie Chapman 
Catt was living In the big hotel down on Pennsylvania 
Avenue while her cohorts were calling on the senator 
from Idaho who was stalling the bill after all these 
years, Senator Borah. Up until then, he had been the 

Butler: bill's principle supporter; but for some reason he had 
changed his mind. 

I often ate In the Capitol dining room where all 
the guests were eating and senators were there, too. I 
began to know many of them as I went to the hearings. 

Then, right In the midst of all that, I discovered 
the hearings on the meat-packing Industry. 

G luck i That was after the Minimum Wage Law was passed? 

Butler: No, It was still hanging fire. As I remember, It 
hadn't gone Into the Senate yet. 

Well, I was clicking along the corridor there one 
day — I think this was In the House. I looked Into 
a room and there was a hearing going on. The congress 
men were there at a long table. A man was sitting at 
the end of the table speaking, evidently. I knew 
Instantly that It was a meat-packers hearing because 
at that time they were publishing huge pages In the 
Washington Post and the Evening Star— flattering pages 
about their great skill as meat packers. But there 
wasn't a word of the hearings In any local papers » 
certainly not In the Washington papers. 

I don't know how far their advertising was going, 
but I was surely aroused at the time. It was the most 
brazen advertising I'd ever seen for a big Industryl It 
was obvious that they must have had a lot at stake. 

In my childhood I'd spend several years on a 
ranch south of Pueblo when my father had gone Into 
the business of raising cattle on the range. I 
remember his riding out In the midst of the terrible 
snow storms they had In Colorado, hunting up his cows 
and getting the fences mended. It's a difficult 
life. My rather was not highly educated but he was 
basically a cultured man. He wasn't one of these 
tough old cattlemen that could stand that kind of life. 
So I knew what It cost to raise cattle on the range. 

Anyway, on this particular day, I Just dropped 
in. It happened that that was one of the days that 
the Armour Packing Company had cornered rice and made 
a huge fortune out of it. Women shoppers had been 
told to buy rice instead of potatoes because the war 
was on and they had to have the potatoes for men In 

Butler* the army, both here and abroad. 

There were no newspaper people at the hearings. 
So, when I caught this story of the rice, I beat 
It down to the woman editor of the Christian Science 
Monitor. (Eventually, I'll think of her name—she 
was a very great n ewspaperwoman J "Look," I said, "you 
must report this hearing. This Is hot stuff!" 

She took the story and sent It to the Monitor. 
Soon It came out on the front page — as her story, of 
course. Immediately, all other newspapers saw It 
there. The next day, ten women were at the hearing 
with nice little pencils and notebooks! 

Gluoki Were they from the Consumers League? 

Butler: Yes, they were on the board of the District Consumers 
League, Including Mrs. Edward Costlgan, the president. 
I had called them all up saying, "This Is a terrible 

story. This Is a consumers 1 story, 
women. Please get down there tomorrow." 
they were. 

It has to do with 
So there 

When all those women filed in, you ought to have 
seen the expression on the men's faces— especially of 
the itan that was the district attorney back in Chicago 
who was brought there to protect these men and their 
companies and conduct this hearing. The expression on 
the faces of all of them, because of these women with 
their pencils, taking down notes — were Just cataclysmic! 

After that, of course, there was a meeting of the 
District Consumers League where the women reported what 
they had heard. They began filling that hearing room 
with an audience, all the time. .In the meantime, I 
was still lobbying for the Minimum Wage Law. 

Everybody became excited. Finally, Mrs. Kelley 
was persuaded to come down and testify. She was very 
unwilling to do so because it was really not their 
field j their field was women in industry, women's 
wages. To get off into this great monopoly of the meat 
packers was Just something she didn't want to do, had 
never done. I don't know how I ever persuaded her to 

Butler: do itj she did not do it happily because it was out of 
their line. It's a wonder she ever came. She didn't 
carry too much weight . 

A lot of publicity followed. The whole thing 
broke open. I attended the hearings every day writing 
up what went on and keeping the Christian Science Monitor 
posted. Then there was another brilliant newspaperman"" 
on the United Press, whose stories came out of 
Washington. He was a brilliant newspaperman, very 
famous. (His name, of course, has Just gone from me 
now.) He liked my reports so he commenced sending 
them out through the UP all over the country. 
Tne advertising stopped j it was a failure because the 
thing had broken loose and was being publicised. 

It was during this period that my two years of 
employment as a secretary of the Pulitzer School of 
Journalism at Columbia University paid off « I had 
absorbed valuable Journalism techniques, 

Glucki This all occurred during the lobbying for the minimum 

Do you remember when, in all of that you went to 
New Jersey to take on that Job to see what women's 
working conditions were like? Was that after that? 

Butler: No, it was before that. It was soon after I became 
interested in the minimum wage in Washington. 
Suddenly, I heard about a factory strike up in New 
Jersey. I think I used a holiday j it took me two or 
three weeks to do it. 

Glucki It was while you were secretary of the Consumers' 

Butler: Yes. I was still secretary of the Consumers' League. 
Harry Laldler was then secretary of some consumer 
organization in New York. He was very much interested 
in minimum wage and all those Issues, see. He knew 
I was doing that investigation. 

Well, I went up to the Botany Mills In New Jersey. 
(They weren't right in Patterson, as I remember it.) 
I secured a room and then found out how to get a Job 
there. I went out early one morning. It was terribly 

Butler: snowy, the ground was covered with snow. 

There was no way to get to the factory except to 
walk two or three miles from the town where the workers 
livedt the factory was way out from where they lived. 
Nobody had horses or cars. It was another world 
from this. You Just had to walk out there. It was 
a terrible experience Just to walk there. 

I secured a job instantly and was assigned to one 
of their crack weavers, a marvelous, clever woman. She 
was my teacher. She at once took an interest in me. She 
Just took me over as if I were her little assistant 
and taught me how to run those great weaving machines. 

How did we eat out there? They had lunchrooms, 
but they were very ordinary. The restrooms were terrible- 
so was the whole environment. Then there wasn't any 
daylight, Just solid brick walls and no windows. When 
I arrived there it was before the sun was up and I 
left there at night when the sun was gone. So I 
never saw daylight at all. That's what killed me. 
I thought I'd die! 

Gluck: Was there heat? 

Butler: Yes. I don't remember being cold. 

Also, I had to stand for hours. There was no 
place to sit down even. That was a terrible thing. 
And there was something terrible about the eating j 
workers had to stand in line for a chance to get in 
there to eat. There was nothing done to take the 
ache out of the body from the standing. And then the 
noise of these machines was something terrible! 

While I was there, one of the men weavers on the 
other side came over to my teacher and asked her if 
she thought maybe he could get me for a wife. He 
said, "She looks like she'd be a good wife." 

He asked her, you see, what he should do. 

I looked like I'd be a good wife and asked 
her how she thought that he could get acquainted with 
me- She discouraged him? I told her she'd better Just 
discourage him. 

OGL-i.V-4. f kJHO -J- v 

[Laughter! ] 
He said that 

She was very suspicious of met she sensed that 
I wasn't of the same breed that they all were. But 

Butler t she loved me. She thought I was Just lovely. And 
she said I tried so hard but she didn't think I f d 
ever become as skilled as she was because I just 
haven't got manual dexterity In my hands. She helped 
me all she could. I worked there two weeks, but I 
thought I'd die. I never went through such a terrible 

Gluck: Then did you write articles about It? 

Butler: Yes, I wrote an article about It for Harry laldler. 
He published It so It want all over the East. He 
didn't put my name on Itj I asked him not to. 

That story created a complete change In the whole 
knitting Industry of New Jersey. It went all over and 
encouraged people to know that those workers needed 
either a minimum wage or labor unions. 

Also I remember that the story created one of the 
worst strikes they'd ever had. Harry Laldler got 
it into the right press. I had told everything that 
was wrong there and about the horrible business of 
walking out to that factory. I asked why they 
didn't get streetcars to come out there and bring 
those workers out and back! I'll tell you something 
funny about me. Whenever I suddenly step Into something, 
something always happens. I don't know why— Just 
something happens I 

Harry Laidler sent me the printed story of the 
result of that experience. He said I was responsible 
for it! 

Then you went back to Washington? 

Yes, and I didn't tell anybody what I'd been doing. 
Nobody knew where I was or anything. I couldn't 
understand why I'd done such a crazy thing! It was a 
risky thing to do. It's a wonder I ever got away 
with it! Physically, it took me quite a long time to 
recover from the effect of it. 

Gluck I But you felt that you wanted to see this first hand? 

Butler t Yes. I just wanted to see what it was like and what it 
felt like to work in a situation like that: . The woman 
who taught me was the principal teacher and she was 
sweet; but what she had gone through physically for 

Gluck : 

Butler i that Job was something terrible! She told me, she 
said, "You know, out here we don't last longj we 
Just die. I haven't very many more years. I won't 
last long either. This kills us and we know It. We 
aren't here very long. We Just plain die." 

Of course, they had no medloal care, no fringe 
benefits? they had nothing. I don't think they had any 
holiday pay or anything else. Nothing could have been 
worse than the labor situation In that factory; you 
Just couldn't have had It worse. I got all of It. I 
got the whole story. 

Gluck: Then, after the meat packing hearings, was there 
other legislation for which you were lobbying? 

Butler: No. 

On The Periphery of the Suffrage Drama 

Gluck: Jessie, during your activities in Washington, B.C., did 
you have any contact with the suffragists? 

Butler i I was intimately Involved with them; for instance, 

Alice Paul had a lovely house there right across from 
the White House, where everybody ate. I was with 
them, but I did not work for them because I had all I 
could do with what I was doing. 

Gluok: So you weren't Involved with them in the picketing 
towards the final days? 

Butler: No, but they were all my intimate friends. The leading 
woman picket was one of the first women that was in my 
first class in public speaking when I came back to 
Washington after eight years in London. Her name 
was Mrs. Harvey Wiley. She was the wife of the man 
who created the U.S. Federal Pood & Drug Administration. 
She helped me start my public-speaking work, that 
woman did. Then there was Mrs. [William] Kent, the 
wife of the William Kent who later gave me the money 
to take the trip [with Carrie Chapman Cattl. They 
all went into prison (for picketing), you know, and 
they fasted. They didn't eat anything so they had food 
pushed down into their stomachs with a hose, so 

Butlen they wouldn't die. It was a terrible story. 

I was very close to all that. They worked hard 
to get me Involved, but I couldn't earn a living and 
get involved? they all had husbands then, so they ate. 
Besides, I was not inclined to go in for as rugged 
a program as they followed. I liked Mrs. Catt's 
legislative system better, but I believe they'd have 
never got woman's suffrage if they had depended only 
on Mrs. Catt! 

Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, who had spent fifty 
years working for this subject was very much of a 
statistician and a parliamentarian i she believed 
that this was the way to get woman's suffrage* through 
proper parliamentary procedure. Her record prior to 
this scene in Washington goes over many years and in many 

Alice Paul was one of the younger members of her 
organization. She had been taught by Mrs. Pankhurst 
in London; Mrs. Pankhurst was a militant. She was the 
one, you know, who put oil down the post office boxes 
and burned letters and did things like this. Alice 
Paul followed her way of fighting. In the end, Alice 
Paul took the position that if any man In the Democratic 
party, for instance, should vote against woman's 
suffrage, she would then condemn the whole party. 

This Mrs. Catt violently disagreed with. She 
thought the only thing to do was to attack the man 
and his attitude but not the whole party, and that's 
why they separated. Always in these great causes, 
it seems that there are those who are conservative 
and like to carry on in the conservative way — that 
was Mrs. Catt's way and her leaders' way— and there was 
Alice Paul, who like to take the more dramatic action* 

Fortunately, Alice Paul had a lot of money given her 
by Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont. She had a house right on the 
side of Lafayette Park, in front of the White House. 
All of us went there, Including myself. They had a 
lovely lunchroom. They kept hoping they could get me 
lined up with this more radical group. I couldn't, 
for one thing, because I was still a lobbyist at the 
Capitol for the National Consumers League. I did get 
to know many of them, though. 

I remember one talented girl, young, beautiful, 

Butler: brilliant, and a recent graduate from Vasaar. Alice 

Paul sent her all over the country to speak on woman's 
suffrage. She was lovely to look at and was a credit 
to them. I became acquainted with her personally. 

I found that she had not only became radical about 
woman's suffrage, but along with others she thought that 
it was all right for anyone to have a baby if they 
wanted and that they could pick the right person to 
be the father of the baby. This would create a more 
eugenic role without the marraige tie. She intended 
to do this, to carry this idea out. She went back 
home to Montana where she came from to visit her family. 
While home she announced to them what her plans were. 
Her mother cried night and day, and holidays, and 
Sundays, but this reformer couldn't be stopped. 

In the end, she did finally get pregnant, 
whereupon she was fired. Alice Baul wasn't out to 
create a new family life for people i she was Just 
interested in getting the vote for women. So the 
future mother secured a Job and departed for London. 
Later there was quite a story about her in London. 
She was a fine mother. She had four children. She 
has since become a feminist leader there. She married 
the man who was the father of her children, a man who 
became a well-known Journalist in Ehgland. 

This story is about an era when women were 
struggling for more freedom. It covers a decision that 
many women at that time thought was sound. 

Today, 5^ years later, women are again involved in 
a struggle for greater freedom. Again the world is 
flooded with new solutions connected with sex and child 
birth and freedom. Many countries are trying out 
new ways of coping with these decisions, including our 
own country. 

The solution of these problems probably rests upon 
what is best for the next generation that is to come. 

Maybe it all began with the biblical stories of 
Isaac, Jacob and Esau and finally Joseph. So now we 
wonder how humankind will finally reach a sound 
conclusion and what that conclusion will be. 

Gluck: With whose tactics did you agree, Catt's or Alice 

Butler: By temperament, I was not easily persuaded with the 
more dramatic way of acting. Yet, in my inner soul, 
I saw that Alice Paul and her followers were making 
more of a dent in this issue than Mrs. Catt was with 
her polite, legislative manner. 

Finally, Alice Paul and her group began burning 
the words of the President in Lafayette Park. Although 
the stories do not say so, I seem to remember they did 
finally burn his body in effigy in Lafayette Park. 
I seem to remember it because I remember thinking at 
the time how bold it was and yet how disrespectful"" 
to the President. 

At any rate, the President became very Irritated 
about all thisi he hadn't done a thing to help the 
women get the vote, although World War I was going on 
and he was giving out noble statements to the world about 
the rights of freedom of all people. But he didn't 
Include women's rights In his statements. 

Anyway, after this drastic attack, he finally 
decided that he would personally appear before the 
Senate in courtesy to Mrs. Catt, he specifically made 
clear — and ask them to vote for the woman's suffrage 
amendment. I seem to remember that that's the first 
time any president had ever gone to the Congress to 
ask for a specific piece of legislation j I don't 
remember that that had ever been done before. It was 
a history-making occasion. 

My boyfriend, whom I later married, and I 
received tickets and sat in the balcony of the U.S. 
Senate the day the President appeared and asked the 
Senate to vote for woman's suffrage. It was a very 
historic occasion and a very thrilling experience to be 
there when that happened. 

Very soon after that, the woman's suffrage amend 
ment was passed by the United States Senate. Then, 
of course, it was necessary to get the ratification 
of thirty-six states j three-quarters of the United 
States then had to also vote to make it part of the 
United States Constitution. So, Mrs. Catt still had 

Butler: a long battle ahead of her. 

It's Interesting to comment on what Alice Paul 
and her eager followers went through In this fight. 
There was a law, at that time, that they could not 
picket at the White House, in front of the White 
House. They could picket in Lafayette Park and I 
think at the side, but not at the front. They were 
told that if they did picket at the front, they would 
be arrested. 

They did picket, they were arrested, they were put 
in jail and then they went on a hunger strike. The 
authorities were afraid they'd die there and this would 
make martyrs of them and make a fool out of everybody; 
so they forcefully fed the women while they were in 
Jail. Among those women was Mrs. Harvey Wiley, whose 
husband later created the Pood and Drug Administration. 
She was among the leadership of Alice Paul's group. 
Mrs. William Kent was another one; her husband was on 
the Tariff Commission. They were both forcefully fed 
so they wouldn't die. 

It was a very nasty, humiliating, and horrible 
experience. I don't remember how many women went through 
that experience. Many of them practically never 
recovered physically as a result of what they had 
gone through. In a way, they really did what they 
felt was absolutely necessary. They let themselves be 
martyrs at the time. 

I don't remember much about the picketing or the 
marching because, of course, I was earning my own 
living and having to work at the time. We used to all 
go and eat over at Alice Paul's restaurant and hear 
the latest news of what was going on. It was very 
exciting, really. 

Moving from the Periphery to the Center* The Tour 
for Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment"" 

Gluck: How did you happen to become involved with Mrs. Catt? 

Butler i Well, while the meat-packer's hearings were still going 
on the suffrage amendment went through, at last. The 


Butler: news came out that Carrie Chapman Catt, with her 

party of speakers, was going to start through the far 
west to hurry up the ratification of the amendment. 
They felt that In the West, where a lot of the states 
already had woman's suffrage and where they were sympa 
thetic to It, ratification could be pressured easily. 
Now, at last, after fifty years, the bill had 

Mrs. Catt's hotel was Just across the street from 
the Munsey Building where I had my office. So I 
barged into her office one evening about five 
o'clock congratulating her on her victory and said 
I had heard she was going west. I told her what I'd 
been doing on getting the story out on the meat 
packing Industry and I explained why I was Interested 
in her trip. 

"I wish I could go with you on this tour and, 
instead of talking woman's suffrage, I would tell the 
story about this meat-packing industry— as one of the 
great Industries women are concerned with as buyers 
of food. I would talk on that." 

Of course, Mrs. Catt's first reaction was against 
it because she felt that If the big Industries thought 
that the voters were going to stick their noses into 
something like these monopolies that were still very 
common, they'd see to it that they still didn't get 
the vote. So she was uneasy about it. 

Being a great diplomat, she said, "Well, Jessie, 
It would be fun to have you go with us but we couldn't 
afford to take you." "Well, how much will It cost?" 
I asked. She replied, "It win cost $500." "If I 
can get the $500, can I go?" "Yes, if you can get 
$500," she replied. She probably thought I would never 
get the $500 and that she need not worry about the 
danger . 

I went over to William Kent's office on New 
York Avenue. I knew tha-c he was the cattle man from 
California who had been responsible for those meat- 
packer's hearings. I told him about her trip? "She'll 
be in six states of the West. I'd speak right from the 
same platform with her and I'd tell this meat-packing 
story. But, she says I have to have $500 to go along." 


Butler i 

Gluck t 

Gluck : 


Gluck : 

He Just pulled out his checkbook and put it on 
the desk and wrote out the check for the full amount* 
In half an hour I was back with the .$500. 

Mrs. Catt said, "Well, Jessie, I promised you 
you could go If you could get the money, so I guess 
we'd better take you along." 

Jessie, when you went on the tour then, did you resign 
from your Job with the Washington, B.C. Consumers 
League or did you keep your Job? 

I think that would have been rather brave to resign, 
don't you? 

Had you ever met her fMrs. Catt] before, Jessie, or 
was that the first time you'd met her? 

That was the first time I'd met her. I'd heard her 
speak many times and I knew that she was a very great 
leader. She was a parliamentarian j she didn't believe 
in getting things done except through the democratic, 
parliamentary procedure. She didn't think that 
picketing and burning in effigy and all those things 
had anything to do with parliamentary procedure » they 
were the kind of things that revolutionists used and 
they were not the kinds 01 things that a democracy 
shofcld use to get its will done. The only thing it 
could do was to go through the legislative process 
and the government process. She believed In that. 

That put her in a field antagonistic to Alice 
Paul and all those other women. She thought they 
violated our democratic procedure. I agreed with her, 
painful as It was for all those years. 

How many states did you go to on that tour, do you 


There was Colorado and Nevada, and California, and— 
I don't remember. When we reached California, they 
had us speak in the state senate roomj they were in 
recess. I spoke from the platform of the California 
senate. We all did. I talked about the meat-packers 
investigation. At every state where we were, there was 
a row of meat-packers' lawyers listening. If I had 
made one tongue slip that was not on the record in 
Washington, they would have sued Mrs. Catt for 


Butler: misrepresentation. 

Mrs. Gatt wasn't too comfortable because she 
didn't want them to kill woman's suffrage after all 
these years. I can remember at every meeting seeing 
those men sitting up there in the balcony. Of course, 
I Just spoke from the point of view of the public 
record that I'd received at the hearings in Washington. 

Gluck: What did the other women on the platform usually talk 

Butler: It was the regular woman's suffrage talk that they'd 
been doing for years. 

Gluck: Everyone else spoke about suffrage? you were the only 
one who spoke about a different issue? 

Butler: Yes. I think, In a way, I was kind of refreshing. It 
was a different talk and it looked to the future and 
this was the kind of an issue that the women in the 
future should technically be interested in as consumers. 
My future husband gave the right title. When I read 
him my speech he said, "Your speech is all right, but 
the title's no good." The title he gave me was "The 
Government and the Market Basket." That title made 
excellent publicity. 

Gluck: On that trip, when you would go into a city did the local 
suffrage people arrange the meetings? 

Butler: Oh yes. There was tremendous publicity — Mrs. Gatt 

received tremendous publicity. An interesting thing, too, 
was the smooth way in which she ran her organization. 
People couldn't do enough for her. They were eager 
to help and there was this great victorious enthusiasm. 
At every station where we stopped to go and speak, 
there were huge crowds there to greet Mrs. Catt. You 
never saw such adoration and such admiration and 
faithfulness that the women gave to that great 
seasoned leader. 

I think possibly that Mrs. Catt had the most 
influence with women and had the greatest effect in 
Joining women to a great cause than any other 
woman that I've ever heard of. They were all back of 
her; they were all sacrificing for her. In those 


Butler: towns there was lots of money — many of the women were 

very well off so there was plenty of money around — they 
always met her at the train and escorted her to her 
hotel. There was deep adoration. But she had no 
egotism because she was basically a shy woman. 

There was a magnetism about her character that 
attracted women and made them forget that women through 
the ages have always fought each other and been Jealous. 
But there was no jealousy In her program; there was Just 
the selfless dedication to a great Issue t and lots of 

Later In life I came to know Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, 
I watched her closely as she carried on her public 
duties. She too was a shy woman. She never lost her 
inferiority complex that came to her In her early 
childhood from her family background. She too 
never seemed to suffer from Jealousy and envy from other 
women in public or private life. It was probably her 
shyness that protected her! 

Mrs. Catt's speeches were oratorical. They were 
profound speeches: they weren't Just superficial. They 
were tied in with the history of government and the 
theory of democracy and what it all means. It wasn't 
Just a superficial speech about the needs of women 
but was a whole philosophy of the right of individuals 
to govern themselves. 

I used to think I had never heard better speakers} 
they were really great orations. 

Gluck: Her whole idea was to appeal to the men to put pressure 
on their local governments to ratify? 

Butler: Of course, there weren't a lot of men there. It was 
the women who had to pat the pressure on the men. 

Gluck: Most of your audiences were women? 

Butler: Yes, of course. It was in the daytime i so all the big 
meetings and big luncheons were held at noon. Mrs. 
Catt had to fire up the women to go after their state 
legislators to endorse the amendment. There was no 
trouble, of course, in the western states. 

Gluck: Was California the only state though in which you were 
actually able to appear in the legislature itself, or 
were you able to do that elsewhere? 

Butler i That was the only one. The state legislature was In 
recess and so they gained permission to have this 
meeting in the senate room of the state of California. 
We sat on the platform and made our speeches from 
there . 

Gluck: Your trip was mainly in the western states, then? 
Butler: I think we went to six states in the West, that was all. 

Gluck: Do you remember what time of the year you went on that 

Butler: We were on the tour over the Christmas holiday. I 

remember vividly how we stayed at the great hotel in 
San Bernadino, the Huntington-Sheraton Hotel, for the 
whole Christmas era. One of the famous women of 
California who really started the woman's suffrage 
movement in California was our hostess. At the moment, 
I can't remember her name, but she was still alive and 
she lived at the Huntington-Sheraton Hotel for many years 
afterwards, until she passed on. 

Gluck: So you were on that tour during the Christmas of 1919? 

Butler: Yes, we started on the tour before Christmas. I 

remember specially — what's the great town In Nevada where 
they go to gamble? 

Gluck: Lao Vegas? 

Butler: Yes, Las Vegas. A fascinating Incident occurred in 
Las Vegas. As we were leaving the hotel one morning 
to go to where Mrs. Catt was to speak to the high school 
students, there was one of my intimate friends from 
Washington . 

We had all been very enthusiastic about this girl 
because she had a fine boyfriend and they had finally 
decided to get married. What we thought was so 
exciting was that he was perfectly willing to have her 
carry on with her Job. That was the era when, as soon 
as you married you Just automatically stopped working. 
But she'd found a man who wanted her to go on with her 
job—a man who thought it was a great idea. We all 
thought so too. But to date such a plan was unheard of. 

Here she was in Las Vegas. "What are you doing 


Butlen out here?" I asked astonished. "I'm getting a divorce. " 
"WHAT! What's the matter?" I asked. "Well, we got 
along fine, but then I had a baby. After the baby 
came, I decided I didn't want to work anymore. I 
wanted to stay home and take care of the baby. I 
found it was rather nice not to have to crawl out of 
bed every morning on cold days and go down on the buses 
and the streetcars to a Jobj it was nicer staying home." 

"But, you know, he wouldn't put up with it. He 
said that we had married on the theory that I was to 
continue work and that as soon as the baby got a little 
older t I was to get a babysitter and get back to my 
Job. He said he had no intentions of supporting me 
and the baby. That was the agreement when we were 

So it occurred to me, at that point in Las Vegas, 
that we women were getting into hot water on some 
subjects about the future and some of the women were 
getting Into hot water, too. 

Then there was another incident down in Los 
Angeles when we were there — not Los Angeles, in San 
Diego , When we arrived on the train that night, across 
the aisle from me was a woman crying all night. The 
nert morning, I took a step over to her seat. She was 
a young girl. I asked her what the trouble was. I 
had noticed that when she arrived on the train there 
was a very attractive young man saying goodbye to her. 
There was a great deal of apparent sorrow between them. 

Well, the story was that she was still in college 
and so was he. He had decided that she was to give up 
her college and get a Job so that he could get his 
legal degree. And that didn't seem to be her Idea of 
marriage, giving up her Job and earning the money so 
that he could get his degree. 

So she wrote her mother about it back East . Her 
mother said, "That's terrible. I never heard of such 
a dreadful thing. You Just leave him at once and come 
back East and I'll take you on a European trip." So 
the reason she was crying was that she was leaving him 
to go back on to the European trip. 

Again, I thought, we seemed to be getting into 
more hot water with some of these new ideas and they 
didn't seem to be very well thought out. On the side, 


Butler: as we were having the trip, I was picking up some very 
interesting incidents because I'm a philosopher by 
nature; I like to see what's going on and then try to 
understand what's going on. I came back from the trip 
thinking that there was a lot more study we were going 
to have to be making into the world Into which we were 
now going as soon as we got woman's suffrage. 

Glucki Do you have any other recollections of that trip that 
you'd like to share? 

Butler: Yes, of course the trip was a very thrilling experience 
for me. I had never gone on a trip like that or 
experienced those crowds at railway stations as we 
went along. Mrs. Catt was always driven to one of the 
big hotels and all of us were there with her. It was 

Everything was so well thought out. Always they 
had these beautiful big meetings. I sat back of Mrs. 
Catt as she spoke. (In fact, she gave me my first 
lessons on how to speak on those platforms.) I 
often noticed that she was wringing her hands behind 
her when she was speaking. So one day I asked her, 
"Why do you wring your hands behind you?" "Because," 
she said, "I suffer so when I am speaking: I'm in agony." 

I was astonished when I realized that Mrs. Catt 
was really a shy woman— one of those people who was 
basically shy. She really did not want to be out in 
front of an audience. When I asked i "Why then did 
you choose this kind of a career," her answer was, 
"I didn't choose iti It chose me and wouldn't let me 

Later I learned that her first husband whom she 
had married after resigning as superintendent of 
schools in Mason City, Iowa, had had an abrupt and tragic 
death from typhoid fever very soon after their marriage. 

One day she met George W. Catt, a former school 
friend who was now a successful engineer. Soon he 
proposed that they marry pointing out that they "might 
form a partnership where each could accomplish better 
results than either could alone. He could earn the 
living for both of them and she would render the public 
service for both." He persuaded her that he had been 
an advocate of votes for women since the age of eight 


Butler: years. So they drew up a written contract wherein 

It was agreed that she should have two months In the 
spring and the same In the fall for suffrage speaking 
and organizing." 

I suspect that George Catt had to think up this 
neat program realizing that his fiance was still 
grieving over the sudden and tragic end of her first 
marriage . 

I later learned In a biography of Mrs. Catt 
that George Catt had "enabled his wife to devote her 
genius as a free gift to her cause, and prolonged his 
priceless grant after his death by leaving her 
financially independent" (from Carrie Chapman Catt. A 
Biography, by Mary Gray Peck). 

It was because of George Catt that Mrs. Catt was 
able later to form the International Woman Suffrage 
Alliance followed by many trips to nations all over 
the world where she taught the women how to go after 
woman suffrage. Several of her dedicated assistants 
went with her on these world-wide trips. 

No wonder that Susan B. Anthony had the wisdom to 
appoint Carrie Chapman Catt to be her successor. No 
wonder that I was privileged to have taken this rare 
Journey with her at the end of her struggle. 

I saw that it was because of her human and 
compassionate nature that she had won the devoted, 
dedicated services of thousands of followers who had 
helped her to win the battle to give the vote to 
American women. 



G luck i When you came back from your tour, it was the early 

part of 1920. You stayed on still with the Consumers 
League, then? 

Butler i No. Very soon after we returned (and I can't remember 
whether it was six months or how long it was after 
Tennessee had ratified the woman's suffrage amendment), 
Mrs. Catt had a meeting of all her following and all 
her officers to wind up the work of the National 
Woman's Suffrage Association. She invited me to go with 
her to St. Louis and sit on the platform. In the process 
they wound up their organization and put It to bed 
financially, and then they created the national League 
of Women Voters. 

Gluoki At the founding convention of the national League of 

Women Voters, that was the last meeting of the National 
American Woman's Suffrage Association. 

Butler t Yes, 1920. 

Gluoki Can you describe that meeting a little bit? 

Butler: I was invited to come to that meeting. I sat on the 

platform when the League of Women Voters was born. It 
was not a controversial issue i it had all been thought 
out, as Mrs. Catt always did. Mrs. Catt was a 
stateswomani I knew many statesmen in Washington, D.C., 
so I saw she had what It takes to be a great states- 
woman . 

She had the plans all made, and Maude [Wood Bark] 
was appointed the president of the National "League of 
Women Voters. She lived In Boston. 


Butler: That whole meeting was all very peaceful and very 

happy because they were through with suffrage and could 
now go on to prepare women for the new program ahead. 
The gathering was very peaceful and very Impressive. 

Mrs. Cart had that gift of dramatizing things In a 
human way that was beautiful, and noble t there was a 
nobility about her and a high spiritual thinking that 
she put back of what she did. That was the feeling 
of that meeting? it was uplifting. The big battle 
they'd fought for so many years was over. Now a new 
world was coming and they were going to help create 
that new world. She put a beautiful spirit of imagery, 
and spirituality, and idealism into the meeting. Every 
body was deeply impressed, spiritually, by the way the 
whole thing was handled. 

Gluck: At that meeting, then, the National American Woman's 
Suffrage Association was disbanded and the National 
League of Women Voters was created. 

Butler: That's right. Then they had a meeting right afterwards 

and I was appointed the first legislative advocate as they 
called it. 

Gluck: And that was a paid position? 

Butler: Yes. It was the highest salary any woman was getting 
in Washington at that time. 

Gluck: Do you remember what you were getting? 

Butler: Thirty-five hundred dollars. There wasn't a woman that 
I'd ever heard of who was getting such a salary. 

Gluck: That was almost double what you got with the Consumers 
League . 

Butler: Yes, oh yes — easily. I didn't have to raise the 

money either as I did with the Consumers League. So 
we went back to Washington and I was off of the 
Consumers League and Into a big new Job for the National 
League of Women Voters. 

Gluck: Do you remember what some of the lobbying was that you 
worked on then? 

Butler: We spent all that summer laying the groundwork for 


Butler i the work of the league with the Congress for the next 
fall. My work, by this time, became somewhat confused 
because this whole question of marriage had come up 
again. You can't think about getting married and still 
be completely sunk In the work of a reform movement 
like the National League of Women Voters. So I don't 
think I did so good a Job that summer. By December, 
Hugh and I were married, and off to London. 

Gluckj Before we talk about your marriage, I'd like to ask 
you more about the formation of the League of Women 
Voters. Was Mrs. Catt's notion that It should 
remain as a woman's bloc? 

Butler t Yes, I think so. I don't know Just what she would have 
llkoi to have done with It, but maybe not have It so 
concentrated on the processes of government but more 
on getting freedom for women In life. I'll never forget 
on our trip West, when she spoke In the high school 
In Las Vegas. I remember her talk so well. 

She said, "We spent fifty years giving the vote to 
women and freedom to women. It's going to be your 
responsibility to decide how you're going to use that 
freedom. That's going to be the most difficult of all." 
Here her thoughts were clear. She was not thinking 
of freedom In government, but freedom In life. 

Glucks How did you feel about these events? 

Butler i As soon as the women had the vote, they Just quit* 

I didn't know what to think! It's one of the tragedies 
of the whole era that a slump took placet women stopped 
seeking higher degrees In colleges, they stopped 
trying to be better-educated. Many young women left 
school for marriage. Many went to work to help 
husbands secure degrees. Over the years this custom 
has become commonplace — a strange reaction to the fire 
and drama of the fight for woman suffrage. The 
sequence of this custom Is sad. Many of those 
marriages ended In divorce. 

Gluck: Do you think that part of that may have been because 
the women's bloc virtually disappeared? Rather than 
being Interested In women, the League of Women Voters 
became Interested primarily In government. Do you 
think that was part of it? 

Butler i Maybe so. Maybe It was because we needed new issues. 


Butler: Mrs. Catt was very disappointed In the League of Women 
Voters for that reason. She felt that It lost Its 
meaning by Just limiting Itself to government Issues. 
But not many people agree with that because the League 
has done great work In this country In getting women 
better trained with government and how It works » 
they've been very successful — though conservative — 
before city councils and state governments. They've 
taught their members how government works, how to 
Influence government. Personally, I think they've 
been great. The time was ripe for this type of teaching. 

Now, as we look at America, we can see what's 
happening to women, and women's programs, and women's 
philosophy. The decisions they're making are utterly 
unexpected and different from anything Mrs. Catt had 
ever thought of. How wise those decisions are, we 
don't know. Time will tell. 

Cluck: Once the suffrage amendment was ratified, did the re 
lationship between Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman 
Catt change? 

Butler: Alica Paul was a woman with a one-track mind, and she 
still is. After Mrs. Catt finally got the amendment 
passed by the thirty-sixth state of Tennessee, she 
came on to Washington and we had a great meeting at 
Palis Theatre to celebrate the Tennessee victory. 
Alice Paul didn't take any part in that celebration. 
(Nor was she there on June fourth and fifth, 1919, 
when the Woman Suffrage Amendment was signed at the 

The day after Mrs. Catt's arrival and the day 
after Tennessee had okayed the woman's suffrage amendment, 
Alice Paul began to plan to introduce to the Congress 
the Equal Rights Amendment. This is added proof that 
Alice Paul is a woman with a profound mind. Although 
she nad helped to secure woman's suffrage, she still 
believed that woman's suffrage alone was not going to 
give women everything they wanted and needed. 

And she was right! They had only secured the 
right to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court has now stated 
that the only status women have today in our government 
is as voters. Any state today can still pass any 
law they'd like against women. Women have no recourse 
except perhaps to vote against them when they pass 
such laws. Well, that's very complicated » there are now 



Gluck : 


a thousand very bad laws on the records of state 
legislatures against women. 

Alice Paul was right. Getting woman's suffrage 
was not enough, it was Just the first step. She's 
still alive, almost ninety, still fighting for the 
whole works so that women will be completely equal 

citizens with men in the United States, 
alive now, by Jove. 

She's still 

What was the relationsip like between Alice Paul and 
Mrs. Catt? 

It was a very fierce relationship because Alice Paul 
was originally connected with Mrs. Catt's organization. 
Then this disagreement on how they were to carry on 
the fight came about. Alice Paul would not give in an 
inch, any man who voted against woman suffrage caused 
his entire party to lose her support and that of her 
followers. Mrs. Catt, on the other hand, continued to 
support any helpful legislator regardless of his party. 
So the two organizations, The National American 
Woman's Suffrage Association and the National Woman's 
Party would have nothing to do with each other. 

To anyone interested in astrology there is another 
answer to the fierce antagonism between these two 
women reformers. They were within two days of each 
other in their birthdays. Alice Paul was bom 
January 11, 1005; Mrs. Cart's birthday was January 
9, 1859. To have two Caprlcoms latched together in a 
violent historical struggle could hardly be more 
trying. Each stood for the truth as she saw it; and 
each in her way has brought about and is bringing about 
lasting freedom for women equal to that for men. 



Gluck: Jessie, before we close the chapter on suffrage I'd 

like to go Into a few more things. First, when did you 
begin to consider yourself a suffragist? 

Butler: You see, everything completely changed when I left 

Boston. At that time I was Just twenty-five years old. 
Frankly, I was worried because I wasn't meeting any 
men. I don't want to go into this, but I had had a 
rigid rule in college that I would make no dates 
because I was getting educated, as my mother told me tod 
do. Now, I'm twenty-five years old. At this point, 
I'm beginning to wonder if I'm ever going to marry — 
I hadn't made up my mind to that yet. So I began to 
be a little soft on red-hot suffraglstsj I mean, 
girls who were trying to get married at that time 
didn't shout their heads off about woman's suffrage, 
as yet not very popular with men. I did go and hear 
Mrs. Pankhurst speak in Boston, though. I had never 
heard such a brilliant speaker. I went to the meetings 
but I did not work for them. Of course, I was still 
working for women in the Massachusetts Minimum Wage 

Although I was a suffragist, I wasn't a frothing- 
at-the-mouth one until I arrived In Washington, D.C. 
in 1915 and became acquainted with all those interesting 
suffrage workers and got close to the whole movement. 
By that time and place, of course, woman's suffrage 
was a more popular subject. When I first arrived in 
Boston, woman's suffrage was a very unpopular 
subject and anyone interested in getting a man wasn't 
shouting her head off about woman's suffrage. Even 
the President of Harvard came out against woman's 
suffrage during one of Mrs. Catt's visits there. So 
I didn't develop an Interest in all of this until I 
went to Washington . 

Gluck : 

Gluck i 



Gluck : 

At that time, would you have called yourself a feminist, 
do you think — In Boston? 

No, I didn't know what a feminist was. I was a 
suffragist but I didn't shout about that either. I 
was ashamed of myself because I wasn't getting out 
and helping. But at that point In my life, I felt I 
had something else I had to do — to learn how to get 
along with men . 

Underneath everything else what I really wanted 
was to have a baby. And that meant I had to get 

When you told me before that you thought you didn't 
want to get married, that was later, too? 

Yes. Because then I'd landed a tremendous Job and a 
good salary and I had prestige and loved my Job. Why 
get married? That was a different story. 

Then, of course, I began knowing all those fine 
women who were working for woman's suffrage. I also 
studied the whole system of government In which I was 
terribly Interested. (I always have been, because I 
have since learned that In a previous life I was In a govern 
ment position.) 

Then when you got to Washington Is when you would have 
started calling yourself a feminist, In other words? 

No, I didn't call myself a feminist; because In those 
days you were Just a suffragette. The word feminist 
was still not used. They didn't use that term as 
a title and a label as we do now. We say, "Is she a 
feminist?" now, and that's a concrete thing we're 
saying. At that time, we did not talk about feminists 
in that hard- boiled label. We Just said, "Is she a 
suffragette? Does she believe In woman's suffrage?" 
That was the big issue of the day. 

Was that the only issue, did you feel? Or did you feel 
there were broader issues? 

Oh yes, I did. That's why I took up the meat-packer 
issue. That had to do with the consumer and therefore 
included women. 

Pluck i But I moan specifically related to the woman's role? 


Butler: Well, I was In the woman's world for four years copying 
their payrolls up In Boston In those awful factories. 
I gained a background of knowledge and Information that 
began to work me up with emotion about the Injustice 
that was going on for women. Also don't forget what 
happened at the MacMillan Publishing Company on my 
first Job in New York City! 

I'd had a very sad family life, my mother dying 
when I was ten, partly due to the family situation, and 
then I had two stepmothers. The first one committed 
suicide later. But I didn't lay that situation to 
feminism? I laid it to the pioneer age and the 
crudity of the pioneer life and the background of 
these women and families. 

I didn't label it as due to feminist Issues — as 
I later found out. 

Gluck: In Washington, then, is when you really publicly 
identified yourself as a suffragist? 

Butler « Oh yes. I went to all the meetings. Some of the 

members of my executive committee ["of the Washington, 
D.C. Consumers League] were not feminists and of 
course I was In their employ so I hadn't a lot of extra 
time. But I attended every meeting of Mrs. Catt and 
the famous woman who had been a minister, Ann Howard 
Shaw — I heard all of her speeches. Everytime they 
spoke I was there filled with glee but sad because I 
knew I could never speak like that. 

But Mrs. Catt didn't know me personally until 
I walked Into her office and asked to go on the western 
trip. But she knew about the lobbying in the Congress 
for the District Consumers League to get a minimum 
wage law for working women in Washington and about the 
meat-packers investigation that was going on. 

Gluck: As a young girl, when your mother was working for 

woman's suffrage, do you recall her talking about it? 

Butlen Oh yes, I remember there was a lot of talk about 

Susan B. Anthony's campaign in the mountains, in the 
mining camps. I remember seeing my mother leaving 
in the spring wagon to win men's votes. But she did 
not take me along. I suspect I was left behind to 
baby sit. She never talked much to me at all — possibly 
because she was too busy. 


Butler i 


Butler « 



Gluck i 


But I was with her all that night that she was 
dying. Then she told me I was to care for my brother 
aged eight and sister aged three, because she was going 
to die. Then she told me that I was a bright girl and 
that I must get educated. This was news to me. Then 
she said the Lord's Prayer as I held her hands. 

I loved my brother. We were pals. But I never 
took any Interest In other boys. For some reason I 
felt superior to them Intellectually. But I finally 
did have a boy Invite me to the Junior prom In high 
school; my high school teacher got him to do It, I 
think. He sent me some red carnations. He was a nice 

3y that time, I was seventeen years old. I didn't 
know how to talk to boys. I was awkward and ill at 
ease. That's why I wanted to go to a college where 
there were no men, and where I would learn to communicate 
with ease. 

So by the time you went to New York, you were feeling 
that you really should think about getting married? 

Washington, not New York. 

It was in Boston that that started? 

Yes, it was in Boston. Then I began to see that I was 
in an environment where I'd never meet any attractive 
men, the kind of men I'd like, you see. In boarding 
houses and places like that, you don't. 

Did you feel social pressure on you to get married, 
or where did that pressure come from, do you think, 
when you were in Boston? Just because you were unhappy? 

Well, I was lonely. I had no home» and I needed 
companionship. I liked this Portuguese at a 
boarding house, he was a handsome fellow. He was the 
one who aroused me sexually. I was twenty- four years 
old then. He was very interested in me, really. He 
taught me how to swim. But on weekends he would go 
back down to southern Massachusetts where his family 
lived. He was never with me for weekends because he 
said his father was a drunkard. He came home and beat 
up his mother so my friend had to be there to protect 
her — this was the story he told. So he was never in 



Gluck : 

Butler i 

Boston on weekends. He hadn't asked me to marry him, 
but I think he wanted to. I think he was very 
Interested In me. 

Then I had a dream that he had a girl down there 
that his mother had picked for him to marry. He was 
a good home boy wanting to do what his family said. 
He was terribly upset trying to decide what to do. When 
he came back one Monday I told him about the dream. 
He never showed up again. I never heard a word from 
him. That was the end of that, and soon after that 
I went to Washington. That's how a dream had saved 

At Smith College, did you think that you should get 
married? Did you feel pressure then? 

No, no, never. But Ethel Lewis, who was a very wealthy 
girl, lived on Long Island. She had had me there for 
Christmases. Her father was good to me. He was the 
editor of a big newspaper, the New York Evening Telegram. 
He was a brilliant man. Everytlme I visited these 
friends, the father said, "That's one of the finest 
girls I ever saw." (to my utter surprise). 

When I visited Ethel at Christmas, her father 
gave us a box to the opera and to the theaters. 
It was my very first theater experiences. Oh, it 
was wonderful! 

There I met Horace Lyon, who was a buddy of her 
boyfriend. He was a handsome young man, this 
Horace Lyon, and much more wealthy even than her 
boyfriend. He's [from] the Lyon's toothpowder 
[family]. They had a home in New Jersey and a big 
apartment in New York and one in New England. I knew 
I'd never get any better chance than that. 

He invited me to visit his family for dinner. 
He was with us at the opera, some of the big operas where 
the great, famous singers appeared. Wasn't that an 
experience, though! 

But I was still undeveloped emotionally. I was 
still Just like a little girl sixteen years old. I 
didn't know how to handle the situation. I was 
terribly Immature. A lot of glrla that menstruate 
late are late maturing, and they're the ones who don't 
get old young i that's why I'm still alive now, maybe! 


Butler: Horace Lyon came to Colorado to get me to marry 
him after I graduated. He was Just a perfect darling, 
very good looking and a very faithful, fine young 
man, but the trouble was I did not love him. I 
tried, but It was no good. Within half an hour, 
I couldn't think of anything to talk about. Imagine 
that! Well, you can't marry somebody without love — 
at least I couldn't. 

I knew I'd never get a chance like that again. 
When he came out to Colorado my family had a fit at 
the way I treated him. 

So at this time, I couldn't have been worrying 
about feminism, suffrage, and all that, you see. 

Gluck: At Smith College, was there a suffrage club on the 
campus there? 

Butlers I doubt It. Smith was reactionary on the feminist 

movement and always has been, I suspect. They didn't 
even have good speech classes there. 

I get letters (I Just had a letter the other 
day) all the time begging for more money. But no 
notices about advanced courses for modem women I And 
always men presidents! 

Even so, I am eternally grateful to Smith College. 
I needed the culture that four years in that rich New 
England background provided. Then, too, I went on 
to good positions, always helped by that Smith degree 
and the tip from Cholmondeley Thornton to go into the 
business world. Let us add that destiny might have 
helped along the way! 

Don't forget, too, that Gloria Steinem is a Smith 
graduate. So is Betty Priedan. 

Gluckj Jessie, then when you got down to Washington and 

became Involved in this exciting career is that when 
you decided that you didn't want to marry? 

Butler: Well, I was in no hurry, anyway. Then I met Hugh. 

He didn't want to marry either, he said. So I had a 
boyfriend, at last. We went out to dinner every night, 
dutch treat, you know. He came to my office and 
we had a marvelous companionship, that I needed. I 


Butler: never had seen any other man in my life that could give 

the companionship Hugh could. He helped me with speeches, 
too, though he had never set a foot Into a college. 
He was Just clever. 

Gluck: Was It very common In those days for a couple to 
go to dinner dutch treat? 

Butler: Oh, yes, It was a new Idea. Women working In 

offices were new too. If you were working and he was 
working, oh sure. I think I was getting a bigger 
salary than he was, or as big. It was Just automatic 
that I always paid for my own dinner and he paid for 

Gluck: Was it important to you that you pay your own way? 

Butler i Yes, it made me feel independent. But, we Just 

never thought about it. If he weren't there, I'd pay; 
he's there, I pay. There was no issue. It was Just 
natural, utterly natural. After all, we were Just 
pals. I had never seen any boy — I've never seen 
anybody since— I could be the same companion to. 

Gluck: How far back do you think your ideas about women go? 
When did you start expressing those ideas? 

Butler: I remember vaguely the day I saw my mother climb into 
that spring wagon to go out and do precinct work on 
woman's suffrage. I was curious where she was going — 
why didn't she take me with her? All she did to get me 
to help her in that housework was to wash diadles. 
Until she died. Then she told me that I was a bright 

I was taking things in, alright. Then, of course, 
there was the question of where babies came from. 
This question arose when my brother and I were six and 
seven years old. We had discovered where the kittens 
came from and where the cows came from. When my 
little sister came I was seven. So I asked my 
mother, "Where did she come from?" She said, "The 
storks brought her." I couldn't wait to get to my 
brctheri we rolled on the floor with glee — what kind 
of fools did she think we were! I was Just seven, but 
full of curiosity about everything. 

I commenced to notice things. Then I remember In 


Butler: the eighth grade In the grammar school, I had a teacher 
named Miss Chase » she was a very good administrator 
but a dominating type of woman. I remember her looking 
at me one day and saying, with a sigh, "Jessie Haver I 
How am I going to survive this year? What am I going 
to do to stop you talking! You never stop I" Right 
In front of the whole school. 

Of course, If she'd known how to teach public 
speaking and had given me some nice assignments and a 
chanc3 to say what I thought, I wouldn't have talked 
all the time all over the place. Guess What? Three 
weeks ago, she came to me In my sleep. She Just looked 
at me graciously. Evidently, wherever she Is, she 
now sees that all that talk wasn't exactly a waste of 
time or nothing but empty gabble. She wanted me to 
know that she understood. So, you see, I was trying 
to develop myself against awful odds. 

Then you saw the doll that my mother gave me on 
her last Christmas. She should have known better than 
that — I never played with dolls. I've never played 
with that doll. She gave me that doll because she said 
It was the last year she was going to live* She was 
probably psychic; she had a lot of ESP In her, all 
right. There's no doubt of It. 

Then I went Into high school. I had a wonderful 
teacher In geometry I loved and to whom I told all my 
sorrows. Then, of course, as a miracle, a red-haired 
girl came Into that high school class, an English 
glrlc They had that ranch north of Pueblo. He was 
from a titled family In England* 

There I spent many weekends} they knew what I 
was going through with a stepmother who was really 
a mental case* They Invited me there for weekends. 
They talked to me as If I were an Intelligent human being. 
The British bring up their girls like that, you know. 
If they see a girl has a mind, they help her develop 
It. They don't teach her to be a sweet little 
placid girlj not knowing anything. 

Glucki All your life as a child, you felt pressure from 
people that you should behave more like a girl? 

Butler i Well, It wasn't that heavy, that I behave like a girl- 
Just that I be endurable. [Laughter] They tried to 


Butlers quiet down my agressiveness. There was a cousin living 
near us two years older than I who was always held up 
to me as an example. "Why couldn't I learn to be like 
Edna? So good, so quiet, so obedient, so helpful?" 

So one day when walking home from the grade 
school several miles away, suddenly Edna was pushed 
down onto a cluster of cactus plants. It took several 
days to get her sit down healed from the thistles. 

I think It wasn't until after I was through 
college that my father said something about, "You'll 
have to learn how to handle men better or you'll never 
get married." I think that's the first time I ever 
heard that. 

My mother should have let me get Into that kitchen 
and help with the meals. But she probably didn't have 
time. Finally, I did join a domestic science class In 
high school. I adored It* I remember once I made a 
scalloped cabbage casserole and a lot of dainty things 
that my mother didn't know how to make. I loved lt» I 
thought It was so exciting. Evidently, my mother's 
cooking was pretty crude. 

But they didn't try to persuade me to learn how 
to cook. The only thing my mother learned that I did 
very well was shop. She often gave me money and sent 
me clear In to Pueblo, a mile and a half across the 
prairie from that dairy. I had to walk to the streetcar, 
Soon I did all her buying for her. She found I was 
clever at that. She had me do that because she couldn't 
get In there herself. 

I don't think the pressure was on me to be a girl, 
especially i It was to be endurable so they could live 

with me. 

Gluck: It was basically that a lot of these thoughts came out 
In Washington? 

Butler i Yes, when I grew more mature. 

Gluck « Do you think It was related to your satisfaction with 
the job? 

Butler i Oh yes, I think that was Important. I had an Important 
Job. I saw that being like a man had Its value, 


Butler: Instead of being like a woman. 

Then also there was this red-haired friend that I 
visited. I visited her with her three children 
repeatedly. I thought she was In a horrible position. 
Her husband had a high position In Yale University. 
He was a wealthy man. There she was glued to this home 
and children, and cooking, and everything. I thought, 
"Thank God! I'm free." 

I think It was that visit to her, when I was still 
In Washington, that made me say, "Boy, I'm not going 
to get into a boat like that." I think that's when I 
really made up my mind; it was horrible. I saw, 
you see, what the demands on her were. She's dead 
now; she went through an awful time with her husband 
and her children. 



Decision to Marry 

Gluck: Jessie t the return from the ratification tour and the 
decision to marry seemed to signal the end of a period 
in your life and the beginning of a new one. You had 
had very definite ideas about marriage before thlsi 
then, this abrupt change. Can you tell me more about 

Butler: I had earlier decided that I was never going to get 
married, so life was very simple. 

Gluck: Why had you decided you weren't going to get married? 

Butlert I'd had a perfectly awful childhood and, besides that, 
I had a very exciting time getting myself trained, 
learning to earn a living and being free — of not only 
marriage and children but of my family. I'd never 
been free before. 

I had this gorgeous Job in Washington lobbying — 
which I adored. I had never been so completely happy 
and so completely using every talent I had, and it was 
heaven. Then I met Hugh. He didn't want to get 
married either. So we Just had a nice, platonic 
friendship for four years. We were companions but 
not future married partners. 

Gluck t Why did you finally change your mind, then? 

Butlen Finally, I reached the age of thirty-three. As I 

looked around at the women who hadn't married and were 
forty on I didn't like the picture very well. They 
didn't seem very happy. One of the most brilliant 

Butler i women in Washington, who'd had a very high position In 
the government, was now In a mental home for lifej I 
didn't like the looks of that either. 

Besides, I'd been eating dinner every night 
with my platonic pal, Hugh. He secured a Job at the 
American Embassy in London, so I began to wonder who 
I would be eating dinner with next. 

I enjoyed himj he helped me in my work. He 
loved having me do this kind of workj he was fascinated 
with it. He gave me titles to my speeches j he was a 
much more brilliant man, mentally, really, than I was 
as a woman. He was a Welshman and I was half German, 
and that's a rather slow-thinking mind. So, whenever 
I landed into a tight place, this alert Welshman always 
had the answer. 

Gluck: When you thought about marrying, you thought In terms 
of giving up your career, then? 

Butler t Yes, I had a terrible time about it. It was one of 

the most difficult decisions I ever made in my lifei to 
leave the best Washington Job I'd ever had (or anybody 
ever had) and to give it up and get married — which 
I never wanted to do. There Is a long story in there 
that I can't tell here of the pressure that was on me 
not to get married. His mother, that he was very devoted 
to, came on to Washington to help get him away without 
me. She told me at the first meeting that he was 
never going to marry. After all, I was not having her 
plan out my life for me either. This I explained to 
her. She couldn't tell me what to do with my life! 
Then I began to want to get married; a little opposition 
maybe was a good deal. Meanwhile, I had grown so used 
to Hugh, I found to my horror I couldn't get along 
without him. You know what I mean. 

Gluck i When you say that you had earlier decided you weren't 
going to get married, did you agree with Hazel Hunklns 
and the other women who didn't believe In marriage? 

Butler: No, I didn't advertise the fact of what I thought about 
it. I Just wasn't going to get married. But I wasn't 
going to have babies either — unless I had a very 
respectable matrimony. I was that conservative. 

Then, after a fierce and unbelievable struggle, 


Butler: the situation cleared and I went to Colorado to visit my 
family. December 6, 1920, we were married In New 
York City by Reverend John Haynes Holmes, the great 
preacher for the Unitarian organization. We were 
married by him In his office with his clerk as witness. 
The opposition of my husband's family to his marriage made 
him unwilling to have anything but a very simple 

(This was rectified later in London when I had a 
chance to be presented at the Court of Saint James in 
1928. I pointed out that since I hadn't had an 
elaborate marriage, I would like to go to Court and 
make up for it. By that time, I guess Hugh felt that 
I had earned the right to go to Court.) 

On December 12, we saw ourselves taking the good 
ship Aquatanla for London, terrified at the idea of 
leaving America. 

Glucki Jessie, did you ever think though about combining, 

continuing your career with marriage? Or you felt that 
when you got married, you knew you were going to have 
to stop? 

Butler t I knew if I was going to get married and go to England, 
I couldn't carry on my career, as far as I could see. 
But I thought I'd like to see England. I didn't think 
I'd ever get there any other way. I'd heard that the 
British woman, whose husbands were In the diplomatic 
service, didn't do any cooking j I thought that had its 
charms. A nice trip to England and no cooking and a 
lot of the new world to see — I was a philosopher, you 
know and full of curiosity. I wanted to see what 
England was like. 

Gluckj So this meant an end to your own career? 

Sutlers No, not a complete end to my career. The decision to 
marry was made on a deep spiritual basis that I can't 
go into herei the most difficult and Important 
decision of my life and one that changed my life and 
improved it. I did not realize that my husband would 
give me a great experience that would broaden my whole 
life and my career and everything — invaluable. Marriage 
Is that way. 


[Editor's note i What follows is an abbreviated version 
of the events until her return to a career. This Is 
based on selected segments of the Interviews.] 

Butler: We arrived In London Just a short time before 

Christmas. It wasn't long before we had found an 
apartment In the Hampstead Garden suburb , the first 
planned community in any English-speaking country. 
It's interesting to note that the idea of planned 
communities that started in England was copied later 
on all over our country. 

Later on we bought a house there, the only 
Americans at the American Embassy to buy a house. An 
American woman at the American Woman's Club In London 
guided me in buying enough antique furniture for the 
eleven-room house. (At the end of World War I the 
Willis showrooms were filled with antique furniture. 
Auction sales were going on all over London! ) 

Soon after our arrival in London, I had discovered 
the American Woman's Club in a perfectly beautiful 
mansion in Grosvenor Square. Almost at once I was roped 
in to start a cur rent- events circle once a week. That 
current- events circle became one of the most interesting 
and brilliant affairs that I had ever experienced. 
There were talented women there from all over the world. 
I still remember the reporter from Italy whose accounts 
of Mussolini's beginning activity were so dramatic. 
Reports from Ireland were pretty lively, too. The 
only trouble was that few of the women had had 
training in public speaking so they had to read their 
reports . 

Then I found Madam D'Esterre down on the Chelsea 
Embankment who had taught public speaking to nine 
royal princes and many men in the House of Commons 
and their wives. The British generally took their 
wives with them to speak on the same platform when 
running for seats in the House of Commons. I thought 
that was rather neat. That was a period when our 
political wives were still kept under cover! 

So Madam D'Esterre was persuaded to come to 
the American Woman's Club to teach their members and 


Butler: the vomen in the current- events circle how to speak. 
Oh, was that an experience! That was the first time 
I'd ever had any formal lessons myself! But she was 
so rough and critical of us — that's the British way of 
teaching I learned later--that only about twelve of 
us survived. 

Madam D* Ester re was from Ireland. She came to 
England at the same time that Bernard Shaw came. She 
wore a Roman -like toga only it was black and she had 
short hair. She was without doubt one of the plainest 
women I ever saw. This, too, bothered the American 
students. But she worshipped the English language- 
she could certainly teach spse&ch! She held her regular 
lessons In her own studio where everyone came once a 
week to speak and to practice. 

I loved her classes there. I was a sensation, 
too, because I was the first American there. They 
all thought I had a terrible American accent — one of 
the worst j but my teacher said not to mind. It would 
take me two years to get rid or that accent and then 
I would be unpopular when I returned home! "Americans 
were accustomed to that way of speaking," she said. 

Then Lady Walker Smith in the Hampstead Garden 
suburb advised me to go to Baden-Baden, Germany to 
secure treatments for the fierce rheumatism I had 
acquired In that frightful British climate. I think 
now it was arthritis, but whatever It was, something 
had to be done. 

Dr. Eddie Schaoht. Not only did his program In 
the hot baths and with the Swedish masseur knock out 
the rheumatism but he laid out a plan for my life that 
was long absent. The question was how was I to have 
a baby and still carry on with my interest in public 
life when we returned to America? By this time It was 
clear that it was too late for me to turn into a 
dedicated housewife for the rest of my life. 

The doctor advised me to give the Intellectual 
Interests a rest for five or six years while starting 
my family — to get the British to teach me how to find 
and keep household help. But he said that I must have 
one day off in seven to continue to pursue my hobbles. 
"Why, Doctor, 1 * I asked. "How can I do that. I thought 
I could never do that anymore once I had a baby. 


Butler: "That's why you had a college education, to think that 
way out," was the answer. 

It was easy to find a good woman to clean our 
apartment once a week and to do the washing. There 
was a cooperative dining room in the building for 
dinners so that problem was settled. 

Then another project developed. I found out that 
all over England In the small villages and in London 
were free mothers' clinics. I discovered that the 
cheapest medical costs had to do with childbirth! 
Thanks to Florence Nightingale most of the nurses in 
England were also mid- wives. Pregnant women even in 
the middle classes went to these clinics to learn how 
to have their babies. Most of the babies were bom 
at home, delivered by mid-wives, for something like 
one pound (about $5). Seldom were doctors involved 
unless there was a need because the pregnant women 
had been so well-trained at the clinics. 

It began to dawn on me that having a baby was not 
quite the same as being a lobbyist at the Capitol. So 
I began to visit a huge mothers' clinic in London that 
was perfectly fascinating. The doctor sat at the head 
of the room on a platform so we could all hear what he 
was saying to the mother there with her baby. The 
death rate of mothers and babies was the lowest of any 
nation except Denmark, our nation was still sixteenth 
on the list and I was on top of the list — I was so 

Then I found Dr. Pink's Nursing Home in Blackheath. 
He had never lost a mother or a baby. He had sent 
every mother away nursing her baby. That did it! 

Our daughter was born in March, 192^ when I was 
thirty-eight years old. She was breast-fed for nine 
months. That was the most exciting thing I had ever 
done — to learn to breast feed a baby. 

Most British babies were now breast-fed. Queen 
Mary had brought Dr. Truby King to England from New 
Zealand where he had made a science of breast feeding. 
In London he had established breast-feeding centers all 
over the city. England had lost so many men in wars so 
they wanted their babies breast-fed to cut down the early 
infant death rate — and it was working! They were making 


Butler: a science of child birth and child feeding! Our son 
was born in 1926 and he, too, was breast-fed, though 
not as long. 

Our British home was now established. There was a 
governess and a cook. The governess had already brought 
up three sets or children. There was nothing else 
that she had ever wanted to do. She knew all of the tricks 
of the trade so every evening she Joined me in the 
dining room to report every Incident of the day and what 
she had done to meet that situation. She had two days 
off a week and so did the cook, so I was glad to 
pinch hit during their absence when I found out how 
free I was the rest of the time. 

Also there was another fear that was settled. 
I was afraid that if I were devoted to child care 
night and day I would lose the friendship that had been 
developed with my husband. This friendship between 
us was very Important. I did not want to lose it. 
Neither did he. That had been one of his fears, also. 

So together we explored London « the political 
meetings or the House or Commons candidates » the musical 
concerts In the great cathedrals; and then one whole 
year every Saturday evening we went to that famous 
series of Shakespearean plays at the Old Vic where 
many of the prominent actors and actresses participated 
to freshen up their skills. 

For my holiday I went to the Fabian Summer School 
for two years and sat at the same table with Bernard 
Shaw. (I have one of Bernard Shaw's books that he 
dedicated to us both.) I thought I had to have all 
holidays with my husband but the German doctor had 
pointed out that he needs a rest from you and you need 
a rest from him. The doctor was right. Hugh wanted 
to go to the golf courses in Scotland for his holidays. 
Those holidays were certainly refreshing to both of us. 

At the Fabian Summer Scnool I was Invited to give 
a lecture on Prohibition. The British thought it 
was a very undemocratic and strange piece of 
legislation. I had discovered that the British never 
study American history so while I did not support 
Prohibition, I was able to hold my own during the 
question period by telling some American history in 
the answers to questions. Bernard Shaw supported me 


Butler: with glee as he was a tetotaler and vegetarian. 

Later on the word spread so quite a number of 
lectures were given to various audiences In London. 

Then, In 1928, I was presented at the Court of 
St. James. None of the American Embassy had ever gone 
to Court except the ambassadors* wives. I didn't see 
any reason why we all shouldn't go; our names were 
sent In every year to go. Why shouldn't we go? 

So Hugh said, "Well, okay. How are we going to 
afford it." Then this Englishwoman got hold of me and 
said, "Jessie, don*t miss it!" I said, "Bur, we aren't 
rich and I haven't any diamonds to wear." She said, 
"none of the British have any morei we're all poor 
after this World War I. You put yourself In my 
hands and It won't cost much." So I did. It cost 
$150, the dress, the footman, the limosine, the driver, 
pictures. Everything came to $150. 

That's the dress you see there in the picture. She 
took me down to an Eva Zorn store where they sold 
dresses to actresses. All the American women went to 
Paris for gowns worth .$2000; my gown cost $^0. The 
woman who sold it to me wrote out its description. Then 
when the press came around, I gave them her description. 
Guess what! I was the only one who hit the New York 
Times flaughter] — to the anguish of the ambassador' s 
wife and the other ladies whose husbands had the top 
Jobs. I never kept that picture. I guess I was 
sorry it had worked out that way. It was not my 
fault . 

Well, that's London for you. Then Hugh's boss, 
Dr. Klein, came over finally and said to us, "You 
can't stay here any longer. You stay here any longer, 
you'll never want to go home." I said, "We don't 
want to go home now. We love this place." Oh, our 
home was so beautiful, with all those oriental rugs 
and antique furniture. It took four years to get 
accustomed to British life and climate. 

My husband had brought his organ over. He's a 
skilled organist, you see. He'd had this organ since 
he was six years old. 

Our home was beautiful. But Dr. Klein said we had 


Butler* to go home and he made Hugh head of the Department of 
Commerce In New England. So we packed up all our 
antique furniture, and sold our house, and Uncle Sam 
brought everything back to America, costing us nothing. 
I came back with the cook and a new Swiss governess. 

Return to the United States 

Gluck: That was 1929 then when you came back? 

Butler: Yes. We came back In 1929 after eight and a half 
years In England, to Needham, Massachusetts, Just 
outside Boston. We bought a three-story old New 
England house. Nobody at that time wanted big old 
houses like that so we got It very reasonably? a great 
big three-story, old house, right on Bradford Street 
with the elm trees and everything. We put In our 
antique furniture. Oh, It was a beautiful home, Just 
beautiful. I rented the top floor to three school 
teachers and they almost paid the rent for the house. 
"Why not have a nice home?" was my theory. [Laughter] 
They loved It up there) I had all this beautiful 
furniture up there. It was a very sweet place. 

Then from 1930 to 1935 I taught thirty-three 
classes In public speaking, all over New England. 
I also earned $3000 a year lecturing on "Pomp and 
Pagentry at the Court of St. James." All women's 
clubs — they paid from $50 to $150 for that lecture. 
I had to take the Court dress and put It on at the end 
of the lecture and then come In and show them how to 
make the curtsy. 
$150 to go to Cour 
for going [laughter] 

[Laughter] It had cost only 

t and I made $3000 a year for five years 

However, I taught them a lot more about England 
than court life. Every year they had a big conference 
of young club women on family life. The women would 
come and say, "Well, I thought If you were going to tell 
me I had anything to learn about family life from 
England, I was going to fix you." I'd say, "How do 
you feel now?" They'd say, "I'm going home and 
make some changes . " I had really got that over; 
tacked on to the court story. 


Gluck : 

Gluck : 

Gluck j 

Did you maintain your feminist position In these talks? 

I didn't have to advertise myself as a feminist} the 
word wasn't classified as It Is now, but I was a pretty 
good feminist just the same. 

Then Hugh suddenly lost his Job after the Depression 
came. Many civil servants, including Hugh, were fired. 

Was that about 1932; when Roosevelt came In? 

Yes, It was 1932. When Roosevelt came In, Hugh lost 
his job because Hoover had been his boss In England 
all that time. fHugn] was a Democrat, but anyway, 
Franklin Roosevelt put the father of his secretary 
into Hugh's position — an utterly inexperienced man. 

Everybody told Hugh, "Now, it's time you went 
into private industry." So he secured a Job in a big 
firm in Worcester, Massachusetts that made grinding 
wheels. Worcester Is a factory town. 

You stayed in Needham? 

No, but we wanted to stay In New England, 
the eastern states . 

We loved 

My husband had this magnetic personality. But 
he was not as good an administrator in private business 
as in the government. He was given one of the top 
jobs in this big factory, over a lot of men who'd 
been there for years. 

He didn't know anything about the kind of politics 
that goes on in such a firm. Within six months, they 
saw that he wasn't qualified for that kind of Job. 
The men under him saw to it, too. 

Meanwhile, we'd taken all that beautiful furniture 
over to Worcester and rented another three-story house. 
Innocently, I added to our troubles at once. I 
Instinctively disliked factory towns like Worcester. 
All those top officials had created a little private 
school where they sent their children. One's social 
status was how high the husband's job was in those 
factories. We did not fit there, socially or culturally, 

There were a lot of Catholics there and Catholic 

8 3 

Butler t schools. So the public schools were really inferior 

because the top people sent their children to this little 
private school. They didn't care whether the public 
schools had any money or not. I ignorantly started a 
P.T.A. to clean up the school situation. That also 
helped Hugh to lose his Job. Women Just didn't do 
things like that in a factory town where the social 
status was based on where the husband worked. It 
didn't completely cause his Job to go, but it didn't 
help it any, I was not going to play that kind of 
game for anybody. Mow, do you call that feminism? 

Gluck: Absolutely. 

Butler: I helped the PTA to start, anyway. Then the man 

who employed Hugh said, "Hugh, we Just feel terrible. 
We've made a terrible mistake." He was getting a big 
salary, $10,000 or $12,000 a year. "But we'll pay you a 
half a year's salary when you leave because we made 
this mistake." By that time, both of us still wanted 
to stay in New England, more than ever. It's an adorable 
place, you know. But we found that few people secure 
high positions In New England who aren't Harvard 
graduates, and Hugh had never set foot in a college! 

Anyway, Hugh began pacing the streets everywhere 
to secure another Job. I feared he was going to have 
a breakdown. Hugh had never been without a Job in his 
life before. This is a terrible strain on any man, 
you know. If you read the Reader's Digest on why our 
men die in middle life, it goes into this. Did you see 
that article? 

Gluck i No . 

Butler: Well, you ought to read it 

It appeared a few months 

One day I said to him, "Come on now. We're 
going into [Boston] and have a big blow-out." to 
which his answer was: "Are you crazy? I'm out of a 
Job." I said, "You are getting a big salary for six 
months. Now we're going into Boston and have some 

So we went. We started walking up Tremont Street. 
There on a building was the sign of an astrologer, 
and I said, "Come on. Let's go up and see the 

Butler: astrologer." To which he said, "I know you're crazy 

now. Here I am without a Job and I'm going to go see an 

Anyway, up we went. I have something, I know 
what it Is now, a kind of inner wisdom. I've since 
found out what it is, and where I got It, and everything. 
Anyway, we went in and there was a reception room with 
nothing but some cheap chairs in it, and then a door. 
I looked In and there at a kitchen table in the middle 
of the room sat an old woman. And she wasn't busy. 
I said, "Could we come In?" 

We both went in. She had the most beautiful face 
and eyes I ever saw. I said, "We'd like an interview." 
I asked how much it was and she said it was two dollars. 
So we sat down and she asked Hugh the date of his birth 
and all that. She started right in and she said, "You 
are one of the few most gifted men, gifted for public 
work, that I've ever seen. That's your destiny." 

Hugh said, "Well, maybe it was once but it's gone 
now." She said, "It's coming back; there's nothing else 
for you but that. And there are too few who have that 
gift of doing public work." She went on *out this. 
We had Just walked In there, you see. She had no way 
of knowing about us. Then she said, "It's a funny 
thing, but do you know anything about ships?" Hugh 
said, "I've been across the Atlantic about twelve times." 
He had had to come home for business trips and all. 
"Well," she said, "I see ships all around you. I 
see them everywhere." Then she said, "Meanwhile, you 
go back Into public work." And she talked some more 
about this to this gifted man. 

Finally, with that we left, and Hugh said, "Well, 
that settles it!" We had a big fish dinner at the 
wharves in Boston then we went right back to Worcester. 
Hugh packed his bag and left for Washington that night 
or the next day. 

There I was left in that beautiful house with all 
that beautiful furniture and everything. Within two 
weeks, Hugh landed a Job on the ground floor of the 
Social Security Administration. 


Teacher and Author — Public Speaking for Women 

Gluck: So that was 1932 or 1933? 

Butler: 1935- That was under former-Governor Winant of New 

Hampshire; he helped start the Social Security Adminis 
tration. Hugh has worked with him In the Boston office 
of the N.R.A.j Hugh had put the N.R.A. over in New 
England and Winant was Governor of New Hampshire at 
the time. Winant put Hugh right in that Social Security 
Administration at the same salary that he had when we 
were married. But it was a salary, after all! 

In due order, I packed myself and the belongings 
and moved to Washington. We later bought a beautiful 
house in Fox Hall Village, outside of Washington. It 
had a top floor that I rented to four medical students. 
Then all the antique furniture was installed and Hugh 
had his organ there. It was a lovely home! Overlooking 
a deep park. But, no ships, yet! 

Hugh went on with the Social Security Administration 
and then later World War II started and he was made 
head of one of those big agencies that had to do with 
coal* It had half Englishmen and half Americans. He was 
a great success there. 

Gluok: During this period in Washington, what were you doing? 

Butler: Before we bought that house, and after Hugh was safely 
started, I planted the children away. Our son went to 
Florida for a year with a lovely family that wanted to 


Butler i take him with them and I sent our daughter to a beautiful 
private school in Colorado on the edge of the Garden of 
the Gods. My family still lived in Colorado, you see* 
so they could keep her with them during the holidays. 

I stored the furniture, and Hugh and I went into a 
boarding house near Dupont Circle in Washington for 
two years. We were then free to struggle with our 
problems i to help Hugh back into the civil service In 
the United States government where he belonged. I 
didn't know then what I was going to get back into. 

At this point, I had a bright idea, "Now's my 
chance to study public speaking officially and to get 
some college credits." Luckily, there at George Washington 
Univeristy, was Professor W. Hayes Yeager, head of the 
Chauncey Depew Department of Public Speaking. It had 
been endowed by Chauncey M. Depew. Professor W. Hayes 
Yeager was one of the leading speech teachers of 
America. Imagine that! And I'm now in a boarding house 
with no housework to do! 

I went to the George Washington University for 
two years. I took every course in speech there. 
I had never in my life been so happy. You know, 
after you have been married a long time and had 
children and had problems, and then you get to be 
forty-five, which I was, and you go back to school — 
if ever anything is heaven, that is! 

Gluck: Did you go every day? 

Butler: Every single day except Saturday. I had nothing to do 
but prepare those very tough speech lessons. Learning 
to speak is one of the toughest subjects there is. I 
spent six and eight hours a day on those lessons in 
the beautiful library there. So I came out from 
Professor Yeseer's class with one of the first 
A's he'd ever given anybody. 

I was in a class of forty young people. They 
were very bored with this old woman in the class. To 
their minds, I was old even then. They were all Just 
in regular college courses, seventeen, eighteen and so 
on. The first two months or three months, they did 
nothing but giggle at every speech I made. But I 
eventually discovered the skill of getting the ears of 


Butler t that type of audience — which didn't do me any harm 

Professor Yeager had been worked up about the 
skill in speech and Its difficulty. Chauncey Depew 
spent ten years learning to be the greatest orator or 
America. It's a terribly difficult subject. That's 
because your personality Is Involved i your audience Is 
Involved i everything you know Is Involved. 

You know what the perfect speech Is? The perfect 
speech Is the speech that puts over a definite effective 
point. How are you going to get over to your audience 
an effective speech, one that accomplishes the purpose 
that you've got to accomplish? It Isn't Just opening 
your mouth and letting words flow out like a river or 
a creek j you've got to have the right words flow out 
that will accomplish the purpose of the speech. 

Glucki Did you have a clear Idea of what It was you would 
want to speak about at that point? 

Butler: No, Professor Yeager gave me my program. 

At the end of two years, I was within three points 
of the Master's degree, but they had no program there 
that would give me the M.A. I took every course they 
had. Professor Yeager advised me not to take any 
more courses. Of course, I was an older woman j I 
wasn't Just a student In a college. He said 
don't go after a doctorate but get out Into the 
woman's movement where leadership Is developing — 
there's where you want to do your speaking. That 
was what gave me my goal. 

Immediately, I found Mrs. McGlll Klefer, who was 
the most beautiful singing teacher of Washington. 
She was also the paid musical singer for the big 
Christian Science church there. I knew Mrs. McGlll 
Klefer. "Where can I start this speech class?" I 
asked. She said, "In my studio." 

Gluck: This was about 1935 then, Jessie? 

Butler « Yes, about '35 and '36. So we sent out a lot of 

Invitations on cards and I think something like twenty 
women came. One of them was Mrs. Harvey Wiley who 
had been very active In woman's suffrage In the 
Woman's Party. She'd been the legislative agent and 


Butlers was now the legislative agent of the General 

Federation of Women's Clubs, a huge national organization. 
She was skilled In legislation from working with the 
woman's movement, but she couldn't speak without 
anxiety? she had never had any lessons. 

Gluck: Were you still In the boarding house at that point? 

Butlen Yes. Still In the boarding house, thank goodness. 

Mo housework to do. It was a lovely boarding house. 
A wonderful woman ran It — had been running It for 
years. We had marvelous meals. We had a great big, 
huge, lovely room at the front of the house, It was In 
one of the old spacious houses of Washington. 

Gluck i When you started your first class, then, you were still 
in the boarding house. 

Butler: Yes, we were still In the boarding house. 

As soon as I started this teaching, I seemed to 
have great success with It and I loved doing It. 
I conducted classes In the morning and by lunchtlme 
or soon after, I was back home. Later classes coincided 
well with household duties to do this. 

Gluck: When did your children come back to Washington? 
Right after you finished school there? 

Butler t The children returned to Washington after we bought 
our new home in Pox Hall Village. Soon I found Dora 
Bailey, a Negro housekeeper who ran our home for over 
six years. Oh, you never saw anything like It! She 
was priceless! 

From 1935 to 1950 there were fifteen successful 
years of teaching. The beginning was a small class. 
From there I went over to the Democratic headquarters 
where they had a large Democratic Woman's Club and had 
classes there. Then the Republicans took me up, and 
I taught classes at their headquarters twice. I also 
held classes at the Junior League. I finally taught 
Pearl Mesta, and Mrs. William Fulbright, and most of 
the leading women In Washington before I left In 1950. 

It was Baroness Von Schoen who offered to help 
me- She said that this teaching was so Interesting 
that it should become a social must in Washington. 


Butler: And that's what happened — it did. 

It was Eleanor Roosevelt, then In the White House, 
who eventually put this teaching on the map. She came 
to the opening sessions of the course three years In 
succession, beginning January, 1939 • She urged wives 
of members of Congress and diplomats' wives to leam 
to speak so they could share with their constituents 
what they had learned in Washington and in the United 
States. Later testimonies poured back Into Washington 
about the successes of these brilliant students* 

In a class for the Junior League there was the 
wife of an army general who was also president of the 
Alumnae Association of the Georgetown Visitation Convent. 
Her name was Mrs. Prank A. Allen, Jr.. When the 
convent learned that she was studying public speaking 
they asked her to take a trip to visit other Convent 
Alumnae Associations to help raise money for a much- 
needed gymnasium. Something like a million dollars was 
soon raised. When Mrs. Allen returned Mother Margaret 
Mary asked her what they could do for her to repay her 
for her splendid success. 

"Please, Mother Mary, invite Jessie Haver Butler 
to come to the convent and teach the high school and 
Junior college students how to speak. I never want 
any student to graduate from here as ignorant of speaking 
as I was." 

So I was sent for, though a Protestant. Over a 
period of nine years five hundred students in high 
school and the Junior college learned to speak In a 
semester course. I will never forget the round table 
the college class put on before the entire school on 
the subject of whether married women should take Jobs 
outside the home. The panel of speakers — half 
Catholic and half Protestant— in their caps and robes 
reserabled the United State Supreme Court as they had the 
American Home under consideration . It was a most 
brilliant affair. The nuns were pleased and the 
students thoroughly stirred up by the discussion. 

Then Mrs. John Cabot, whose husband was a diplomat, 
came to me in trouble. Our diplomats all over the 
world, she said, were untrained speakers. Could I do 
something about It? 


Butler: World War II was on so I was afraid that It would 
be difficult to get State Department men burdened 
with the pressures of war to come for speech lessons. 
Mrs. Cabot had a beautiful home with a large drawing 
room so she invited about thirty leading diplomats to 
come one evening for a musical. 

They all came looking very pleased but were less 
pleased when I was Introduced. At the end of the evening 
they all reluctantly signed up for the eight-lesson 
course. Alan Cranston, now our senator was Just back 
from Europe and he was in that class. 

It is interesting to note that almost every man 
In that class later became an ambassador. It's too 
bad that Madam D'Esterre of London, whom I had copied 
in my teaching, was no longer living to hear of this 
success I 

Gluck: What sort of income did you derive from teaching? 

Butler: A very good one. I received $35 for eight lessons from 
each pupil, plus a text-book to each student. The 
course was offered in the fall, again in the winter, 
and often in the spring. The convent classes were in 
the mornings. 

Gluck: So you began to have an Independent income again. 

Butler « It was never as large as Hugh's civil service salary, 
of course. But that didn't bother me. I couldn't 
work full time. Classes were generally in the morning 
so that by four o'clock I was free to shop and see the 
children come in and so on. 

Don't forget, too, the four students on the top 
floor took a lot of time and planning. But they 
practically wiped out the house payments. That helped, 

Gluck i What made you decide to write the speech book and when did yoi 
decide to write it? [Time to Speak Up, A Speakers Handbook 
for Women 1 

Butler: Very soon after I started teaching these classes. 
There was a drastic need for a textbook for women. 
At one of the annual meetings of the Speech Association 
of America at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington I 


Butler t encountered William Norwood Brigance, who had founded 
the Speech Association of America and was then the 
president of it. He had written many books on speech. 
He taught at Wabash College and was the highest-paid 
speech teacher in America. 

I accosted him at the annual meeting and said, 
"Where could we find a suitable speech book for these 
women's classes?" Most of the men's books that they 
used in the colleges were too intellectual and too 
biased from the man's point of view and they were not 
good books for women . 

"Well, Mrs. Butler," was his answer, "why don't 
you write the book for yourself?" I never felt such 
a cold chill of fear in all my lire! The idea of sitting 
down and writing a book! I said, "How could I do it?" 
He said, "Write down what you've been teaching, exactly 
as you are teaching it. Such a book is very much 
needed for women. You ought to write a book that's 
slanted toward women's use. They need many things 
In that book that the men don't need. I'll tell you 
what — I'll give you a deadline of June first" (And 
this was in the middle of the winter.) "June first I 
want the first three chapters of that book." 

Gluck: What year was that, Jessie? 

Butler: The book was published in '*J-6 so it must have been about 
•*J4. All anyone has to do with me is to give me a 
deadline and I'm sunk; I'll do anything to meet that 
deadline. I don't know why; I Just can't miss a 

Well, we had this little hideout in the Shenandoah 
Mountains. For twelve years we had left Washington 
Friday nights and didn't come back till Sunday. That's 
why my husband is still alive, I believe. We went 
up into that hideout, relaxing, looking at those 
mountains, the sweetest little spot. 

It was right in the midst of a lot of hill-billy 
farmers and their families. They shared their fresh 
vegetables with us. They seemed to like us because we 
brought a new world into that place. 

They were all people that President Roosevelt had 
moved out of the mountains when he set up the beautiful 


Butler: Skyline Drive as a public reservation. They were farm 

families and had lived for generations In the mountains. 
Some didn't even have boards on the floors or screens 
on the windows. 

The Resettlement Administration built some 
ninety-six lovely little frame houses with porches, 
window screens, bams — modern little houses* We 
bought one of those extra houses for our hideout — 
right in the midst of these farmers. 

So, following this conversation at the Speech 
meeting in 1944, at the end of May — as soon as school 
was out — we retired to our hideout up in the Shenandoah 
Mountains. I took my typewriter along. I knew I had 
to get those first three chapters done by June first. 
I put it off every day. I kept thinking of everything 
else that I could do that would put off starting that 
writing. I was really scared. I had never written a 
textbook; I didn't know how to start It. 

Every day I'd say, "Tomorrow 1*11 start." Then 
my husband would come up for the weekend and I had a 
good excuse for not starting. 

Gluck: You were going to stay there all summer by yourself? 
Butler: I always did stay there all summer. 
Gluck: Were your children with you? 

Butler: They came and went. They were older and they did all 
sorts of things, as teenagers do when holidays come. 
Of course, I invented all kinds of things for them to 
do. Some of the time they were there and sometime 
they weren f t. (I am against these long school holidays. 
They are a waste of valuable time.) 

Anyway, I remember well the Monday morning when I 
got up at seven and said, "I am starting that book 
today . " I had a bedroom up in the top of the little 
barn that I used while Hugh was away? the air was so 
nice up there and the view was beautiful and it was 
cool. I remember climbing down out of that barn and 
going Into the kitchen. I set up my typewriter in the 
living room and I said, "I have to start now." 

I went in and sat down at the typewriter. By 
the time I had written one sentence, I was off with 


Butlen a bang. I never had to struggle again. I Just wrote 
one sentence; that morning at seven I started and I 
didn*t stop until one. I had the whole first 
chapter done on the "Conquest or Pear." Professor 
Briganoe told me later no one had ever written a 
chapter like that, in a speech book. I asked, "Don't 
the men get scared too?" "Oh, yes, the men get 
scared also, but they don't admit it. They don't write 
down they're scared, but that's a great chapter." 

Of course, I'd had had so many years of study- 
in psychology in London that I felt I had a marvelous 
psychological background for that chapter particularly. 
It was the one thing my Professor Yeager lacked. I 
doubt if he had ever studied psychology so his oral 
criticisms in class were so awkward that he 
usually wrote out his criticisms. 

As soon as I started writing that chapter, I felt 
qualified to go into this whole question of the conquest 
of fear. 

Gluck: Did you write the book all that summer? 

Butler: Yes, I wrote every day that summer. By September I 

had the book written. Then I had a funny thing happen. 
Number one, I wrote to a man at Harper's whom I had 
known in Boston very well. We had had that little 
Fabian Society in Boston that I'd been secretary of 
and this man was in that society. 

I wrote to him about this book and asked would he 
like to see it. I had the extreme Joy or having him 
write back at once. He waited to see the booki it 
was accepted at once. This is something that happens to 
very few people who write books. It was heaven. 

In the end, the book was published by 
Mrs. Roosevelt wrote an expression of gratitude for it 
and Lady Astor did a testimony that went on the back. 
It didn't create a howling sensation because everybody 
said that women didn't want to speak In public; they 
were too shy, too sweet and not that aggressive. The 
feeling was that this was a little bit premature. 

To get It published, of course, spoiled me because 
I thought I'd be able to get it into a paperback Just 
as easy, but I haven't found anyone yet to help me. But 
the hard cover was published right away* I 

Butler: revised It twice. I still hold both revisions. 

Then I became the speech coach for the General 
Federation of Women's Clubs and was on their board. 
They had five million members. For eight years, 
either eight or ten years, I went to their annual 
meetings all over the United States and put on four 
speech workshops early every morning during the 

1*11 never forget the first one, in St. Louis. 
The president had told me nobody would come. They 
already know how to speak. She did have a workshop for 
parliamentary procedure led by a woman who'd been 
doing this for years and years. So I was going 
to be in competition with this experienced teacher, 
you see. 

I remember that morning how I kept reminding 
myself of the few people who had come to my first course 
in Washington. I Just said, as I started down the hall, 
"How you Just be calm and don't get excited. Maybe 
there'll just be three people there; you Just teach 
the three people and then next year there'll be more 

But as I approached the ballroom, I heard this 
enormous buzz. When I reached the door, the ballroom 
was Jammed with people. I was so un-horsed, it took 
a little bit of time for me to gather myself together 
with my usual poise. Soon that first class for the 
General Federation of Women's Clubs Convention was 

The Federation used to have annual meetings of some 
three thousand women. Sometimes four hundred delegates 
came to the speech workshops. Often as many as two 
hundred endorsed text-books were sold. 

The workshops were a great success. The women 
would greet me, saying, "I've got my clock j I'm going 
to be down there for that workshop at quarter to eight 
in the morning." So they Just packed the place. 
It w&s delightful, because it was needed. 

In the end, I travelled around to a lot of their 
states, as you saw in my record. I Just loved that 
teaching. It was Inspiring because the minute the 


Butler: women were trained as speakers they seemed to find 
themselves. Of course, they were already gifted 
leaders or they would not have been sent to these 
conventions . 

Few men can equal such trained speakers. They 
know it. That's why they like to discourage women from 
taking speech lessons. 



Gluck: Then you came out to California In 1950? 

Butler: Yes, My husband's Job with the Maritime Commission 

ended. He was showing signs of weariness that I didn't 
like. My career was at its height, but I decided that 
I preferred a husband to a career. Our biochemist 
lived in Los Angeles, so we beat it to her office. 
She said that within a week he would have had a 
severe stroke; she had just caught him in time. 

Then he had the idea that we should go down to 
Mexico for a while. I didn't want to go to Mexico. 
I thought I didn't like the sound of it. My sister 
got hold of him and said, "Now, look, Hugh. You 
go down to Mexico by yourself? you'll never have a 
minute's peace with Jessie down there." I couldn't 
speak Mexican and I'd go crazy. She said, "You get 
down there and relax and rest and get back to your 
organ," that is what he needed, you see. 

He was still a colonel in the army, so Uncle Sam 
paid his hotel bill and his teacher's bill [to study 
the organ] and he stayed a year. He came back completely 
healed after watching the Mexicans practice manana. 

Gluck: What did you do up here? 

Butler: Evidently we both needed a change. I wrote a book about 
my life. 

Gluck: You wrote another book? 

Butlert That book is somewhere. I wrote the whole autobiography 
of my life. I hadn't looked at it for a long time. It 


Butler: was sent to two or three publishers, but since then I've 
done better writing. Yesterday I went through my cup 
board out there, and that book's there. So what I must 
do now as soon as I can is to get that book out. It's 
all written. 

I wrote another book, Adam's Other Wife. Now 
Adam's other wife is the wife that Adam wants, a 
companion. When Adam marries, he doesn't want a cook. 
He wants a companion. But the American woman, the 
minute she gets a baby, never pays anymore attention 
to Adam, see. She says, "I love my baby." 

The Englishman won't put up with that. He says to 
his wife, "Now, you get a governess. I married you for 
a companion. When I come home, I want you fresh and 
rested to give your time to me. I want that companionship." 
He's right. He's got to have it, a man has. A 
wife can have the baby two days a week, but he says, 
"The rest of the time I want you for my companion." 

That's what's wrong with America. The minute a woman 
gets a baby, she forgets he's around. Then he has to 
turn to his secretary or anybody for companionship. 
You can't take care of a baby twenty-four hours a day 
and continue to be a good companion to your husband, 
can you? No, you can't do it. 

Gluck: You wrote two books in that year, then? 

Butler: No. I wrote the autobiography in 1950 while Hugh was 
in Mexico. Adam's Other Wife I wrote in 196?. It's 
a fifty thousand-word book and it's well-written . I 
rewrote it five times. I worked hard on that book. 
But I Just couldn't get anybody interested in 
publishing it. My creative-writing teacher is begging 
me to let her see it. 

Of course, while my husband was around and losing 
his mind, I hadn't been able to give a lot of time to 
it. Now that he's fin the rest home] where he is, 
I must fall to now and do something about that 
autobiography and about that book Adam's Other Wife. 
Don't you think that's a cute title? 

Gluck: Now, after you came out to California, did you continue 
to teach public speaking to women? 

Butler: Yes. I finally began teaching at Mount Sac (Mount 


Butler: San Antonio College) one night a week. The classes 

were large; men and women in public life came. I did 
a good Job and a lot of prominent people came. I 
was ruled out, after seven years, because of my age. 

But the Federated Club Women out here killed my 
book and my career. How long have you lived in Califor 

Gluck i Since 195^. 

Butler: Where 'd you come from? 

Gluck: Chicago. 

Butler: Well there you are. 

Calif ornians don't like people with careers to come 
out here and tell about their careers and how famous 
they are and what they want to do. They dislike that 

I had been out here with our national president 
of GFWC] and had put on a speech class. I thought when 

came back I'd Just carry right on. I didn't know 
that this state's women were as different as they are. 
Although back East the General Federation had warned 
me — "We get few good leaders from California; we 
don't; understand it." They watch their leaders because 
their leaders from the states are the ones they're 
going to put into the national organization. 

I was a babe in arms. I Just plunged in. I'd 
never even voted before, you don't vote in Washington, 
B.C. So I Just plunged in, you know. Boy, those 
girls Just killed my book and killed my whole teaching 
and everything. I didn't realize that you have to 
start all over again from the bottom in California. 

Clucks So most of your career after you came out to California 
revolved around your own writing, then? 

Butler t That writing, and two other things happened. One 
was, I found Vic Tanney. [The Vic Tanney gyms] 
You know who Vic Tanney was? Well, for four years, 
I went three times, a week and completely strengthened 

my body. I'd never gl-ven any time to my body. It 
was flabby; my legs were flabby. I thought, "Well, 



Gluck : 


Gluck : 

to heck with It. If I can't do my teaching and all, I'll 
just go to Vic Tanney." So I worked on my body, and 
you wouldn't believe how I revolutionized it. 

Kow old were you when you started going to Vic Tanney? 

How old do you suppose I was? Let me see now — what 

were those years? 


Somewhere in your slrties. 

I was living in Pomona. Let's see, I left Pomona in 
1966 and I think it was '64, and three from 64 is 61. 

So you were in your seventies, then, when you started 
going to Vic Tanney*s?! 

Yes, in my seventies. That isn't anything. What's 
seventy? [Laughter] I'm in my eighties now. But you 
know what?" When I was forty-nine in Washington, I 
began saying, "My goodness, here I'm getting up to 
fifty years old. Isn't this terrible!" And a woman 
came to speak to the press women in Washington, who 
was the editor of McCall * s , who was over eighty. She 
gave this down-to-earth, practical woman's talk. I 
said, "Well I didn't know you could talk like that on 
a public platform, over eighty." And they never heard 
another word from me about my age. I thought, "I'll 
fix her? I'll get to be eighty- two and I'm never going 
to talk about it." 

My sister had bought a ticket to Vic Tanney and 
didn't use it, so she turned It over to me. I went 
three times a week and I worked on those machines. 
Later they had a swimming pool. I adore swimming. 
Then Hugh and I swam all summer in Puddingstone Dam 
[County Park], too. We did this summer even. Boy, 
did I build up my body! That was smart, at seventy. 
That's when they all commence to deteriorate In here 
[gesture], you see. 

The other thing I did, I found a new religion for 
the new age! And boy, I found a great religion. My 
husband and I went over twice a week to Glendale. The 
leader is a very great woman from Florida. Did you ever 
read Many Mansions? 



Butler: Well, read Many Mansions. You'll get an idea what it's 
about. She teaches a religion tied to the Bible and 
the teachings of Jesus, plus dream interpretation, rein 
carnation, night flights, healing j all the modern 
things that can go with a religion, and it's a new 
religion for the new age. So, the dear California 
Federation of Women's Clubs did me a favor when they 
kicked me out. Instead I went into this new religion. 

Several years ago, I felt I was going to die and 
I knew it. So I prayed for a spiritual leader. I 
said, "I'm not ready to die; there are more things I 
need to know." I found her apparently by accident j 
she had just come to California from Florida. She 
saved my life, healed me, and I'm still here. She 
thinks I'm going to last quite awhile yet. Maybe 
I'll get some of these books printed. Or get Time to 
Speak Up into a paper back version. 



Joining the Movement 

Cluck: When and how did you get Involved in the current 
women ' B movement ? 

Butler: Well, some woman, I don't remember her name, from 

Pittsburgh came out to start the women's movement here 
and spoke In a hall on the college campus. I had already 
read the Feminine Nystique and sent $50 the weekend 
they organized N.O.W. In Washington. 

Cluck: Where was that meeting? 
Butler: In Claremont. 

At that meeting was Judy Meuli [from the Los 
Angeles National Organization for Women]. I began 
talking to her at the end of the meeting. I 
said, "You must have some classes in public speaking 
to develop your leaders." She said, "My goodness, we 
ought to do it right away." She went back and stirred 
them up. They got in touch with me and asked me if 
I'd give them a class. 

Of course, they didn't have any money. I said, 
"I won't give a class unless people pay for it. 
Otherwise, they'll come and they won't finish it. But 
I'll give the money back to you to start your 
Speakers Bureau." 

So they had that class at the home of a woman in 
Hollywood. I think there were twenty or twenty-five 
there. Jean Stapleton was in it and Virginia Carter 


Gluck : 
Butler » 

Butler: was in it (Los Angeles N.O.W. figures). I've got the 
list of all those people. Many of them later became 

Gluck j How did you happen to go to the August 26 big 

celebration in 1970? [On August 26, 1970, there 
were rallies In cities around the country, including 
Los Angeles, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of 
the ratification of the Woman's Suffrage Amendment.] 

Butler: When that came off they were looking for some woman, 
and they wanted to know if I had a speech on that. I 
said, "Yes. I do, about Tennessee." So they asked 
me to come in. I've never gotten any money for any 
of that, of course. All the work you do for them — 
they don't believe in volunteer work — except for them! 

Kow did you happen to go to that very first meeting In 

We just heard this woman was going to come out and 
talk about women. Ganell Baker tipped me off on it, and 
I went. We didn't like the talk at allj it was an 
awful messy talk. 

Gluck: Had you been reading before this? For example, you say 
that you had read Betty Friedan's book which came out in 

Butler: You bet I did. Yes sir, I read that book as soon as 
it came out. I think that's one reason I got to that 
meeting. All through those years, although I wasn't 
teaching or anything, I was reading everything I could 
get my fingers on that had to do with the woman's 
movement. I considered Betty Prledan's book the 
greatest book I had ever read. When the history of 
this era is over, that book Is the thing that's going 
to stand out as the leading book or this era, above 
everything else that's been written. I'm Just as sure 
of that as anything. 

A lot of people don't agree with that, but she's got 
the deadly facts there — the whole woman's movement is 
covered, and what needs to be done about it. There's 
never been such a book written. I don't know how she 
ever wrote It. I've even heard people pretend that 
somebody else had written it because they couldn't 


Butler* understand that Betty Friedan, as she Is now, was 
capable or writing such a book. I don't care who 
wrote It or where It came from. 

In the ages ahead of us, we'll look back on this 
era, and that's the book that's changed the history of 
the world for women. I know that's so. 

Gluck: Did you Immediately become Involved then, or It wasn't 
until that meeting? 

Butler: As soon as I could, I did. I Joined Immediately after 
they had that caucus in Washington, B.C.. I Joined 
the National Organization [for Women] at once. I've 
belonged to it ever since." I was so excited. 

Gluck i So you joined back in 1966 then? 

Butler: Yes! I never did get back there, but I did send them 
$50 at once and I would have sent more if I'd had it 
because I knew they had started something that was 
perfectly tremendous. The more I know about it, the 
more that's got to be done. 

I've just been two whole days in Los Angeles at those 
hearings of the Status of Women Commission for 
the state of California. I've never heard such 
brilliant speeches or such brilliant presentations of 
the issues that Involve women in this state as I heard 
at those hearings. It was marvelous. Beautifully 
handled. Brilliant speakers — and you know I'm very 
particular. (They didn't all enunciate quite loud 
enough; it was sometimes hard to hear them.) 

Those women brought facts and material, well- 
substantiated, and presented their causes and told that 
Status of Women Commission what they must do for their 
particular cause. It was a great hearing, those 
two days. It's a revolution, there's no doubt about 

We're in for a revolution. Since it took seventy- 
two years Just to get the vote, you can figure out 
for yourself Just how long It's going to take to solve 
this revolution that involves every part of women's lives. 


Considering the Meeds of Women 

Gluck» How do you see the revolution, Jessie? 

Butler: Two things, I think, have got to be done. One, 

women have got to learn to work together better. Do 
you know why they don't work together? I'm going to 
write an article on this if I get time. The reason 
is that since the beginning of this eternity, women have 
been in competition for the same thing — married life 
and security. So, they have formed an ego of competition. 
Every woman they meet is an antagonist. It's a 
terrible situation . 

I know exactly how to correct it. It's got to be 
done. I've got it all worked out, but I don't want to 
tell you here because this is going to be my next 
program, to work on this. 

Another thing » the women have got to learn how to 
run better homes. The reasons why men are cashing out 
on the homes are that the homes are chaotic! No 
Englishman would stay in a home like the American home. 

It's badly organized! There's a wrong theory, 
a pioneer theory, that the woman must do everything, 
bear all the children, do all the cooking, cleaning, 
and everything. It's a crazy idea and performance. 
The British have licked that. They're two thousand 
years old, and we're Just two hundred years old. I 
found out from the British the answer to that i we've 
got to have better- run homes. 

Third, we've got to have mothers' clinics to 
teach women how to bear children and take care of children. 
England has made a science of child care. Our girls 
are marrying in ignorance; absolutely ignorant of 
anything about having children, bringing them up and 
caring for them. We've got to set up a free nationwide 
program on the subject of the care of little children. 

This is a terrible country for a little child to 
be born in. They don't have a gambler's chance of 
growing Into normal human beings — and they aren't growing 
into normal human beings. Last year ten thousand damaged 
children were brought into the hospitals, nearly 
dead, damaged by their parents. Not in the poverty 


Butlers area, either, but from middle class, cultured 

people. They're not trained to handle children, don't 
know how to handle them. 

Another ten thousand died in their cribs in crib 
deaths because they're not being breast-fed. Cow's 
milk is not the milk for little children. It chokes 
them to death In the first three months. We've got to 
do something about that, too. 

Gluckt Jessie, what do you see as the goals for women? What 
do you think should happen? What kind of changes? 

Butler: I don't think the women yet know what their goals are. 

They're unhappy. They're getting divorces on the slightest 
excuse? running out of their homes. They're so unhappy, 
untrained, unequal to meet the problems they've got. 
They haven't found their destinies yet. The first thing 
we've got to do, I think, is to help the girls. 
I've been in a high school all day today, the biggest 
high school in Ontario, Chafey High: beautiful young 
people there, Just beautiful, but they haven't the 
faintest idea of how to make plans for their lives, 
to get a goal for their lives and how to work it out. 
They think to solve everything is to quick, quick, run 
away from home and get married — get out from the homes 
where they're unhappy and get married. 

Nothing could be worse. Marriage Is a terribly 
difficult prospect, a terribly difficult Job. There's 
no more difficult Job In the world than to make a 
marriage go — and the most worthwhile Job. Nothing else 
will bring as much comfort and satisfaction as a good 
marriage, but it's got to be worked at. 

These girls get married. This young man I've Just 
been talking to is going to get married next month. 
He's no more fit for a marriage than a Jack rabbit. Nor 
is the girl, who Just wants to get away from home. 
What does she know?! He hasn't even found his Job, 
he hasn't found his skill, he doesn't know how he's 
going to earn a living. He doesn't like what he's 
doing now. He hasn't found himself. 

Neither has the girl found herself. How could you 
make such a marriage a success? They aren't making it 
a success. They're getting divorces all over the place. 


Butler: They're failures. A lot of girls are so eager to get 
married that they quit school and earn the living 
while the husband gets his education. Do you know 
what happens? Half of the husbands leave them the 
minute they get their degree. 

One family I know very well. I went to their 
wedding. She stopped school In the middle t stopped 
her education so as to finance the boy to finish his. 
The day he got his degree, he walked In and said, "Thank 
you very much. Goodbye. I'm glad to have known 
you." That's going on all over this country j girls 
stopping their educations to carry the boys until they 
get educated. Crazy idea! 

We haven't found ourselves any plan, any program, 
any vision, any issue or any way of working out our 
lives. Who's suffering? The little babies that come 
into these messy homes, badly run, badly planned. 
What chance have those babies to grow up Into normal 
citizens to ever be useful to this country? All these 
things must be straightened out or our country is 
doomed . 

Fifty percent of the marriages right now are 
falling on the rocks. Any" country whose family life 
deteriorates Is doomed. You cannot bring up citizens 
and people in family lives if they are failures. How 
can you do such a thing? 

All these girls that go to welfare to get money 
when the men leave them! And the men leave them because 
they're so unhappy in their awful homes. 

Gluck: Jessie, what differences do you see between the women's 
movement now and the women's movement in the beginning 
of the century? 

Butlers The whole woman's movement now is utterly carried on 
by untrained, unskilled women? they're Just trying to 
find themselves. This consciousness [-raising] 
groups — I haven't gone to any of these consciousness 
f- raising] meetings. The Ms magazine this month 
describes the consciousness [-raising]] meetings the men 
are having. They're finding out; the men are having to 
begin to find themselves. They, too, are in terrible 
trouble, Just as much trouble as the women are. 
We're all in trouble in this country. 


Butler: Two hundred years. What's two hundred years to 

learn to live In a country that built Itself up in Just 
two hundred years from the Atlantic to the Pacific? 
Our roads, our houses, our schools, our buildings 
and everything have been miraculous I But that isn't 
enough to make the human side of life right, 

Now we are going into the Aquarian Age, which is 
the humanitarian age. The women need to be freed to 
help us in that age. Because they are basically 
humane, women are, though untrained. 

I see the work of the National Organization for 
Women. I want to nelp them all I can. They're still 
very amateurish, very Ill-advised, and it's going to 
take a long time to work out these issues. 

Gluck: Do you think that the earlier woman's movement had a 
better sense of its own direction than the current 
woman's movement? 

Butler: Yes, they dldj but the early movement was simpler. 

I think they're finding their direction today. They're 
making headway everyday. Heide's [Wllma Scott Helde, 
President of NOW] last letter before she went off 
to this annual meeting is a masterpiece. But she has 
nothing in it about the things I'm talking to you 
about; about babies, and homes, and mothers, and training 
people for home life and family life. There's nothing 
in there about that. All she's talking about is 
getting better Jobs for the better women. 

Mow we know that the figures are that within six 
years, all but eight percent of the women who get 
annuities when their husband's die are bankrupt. 
Bankrupt! Why? Because women don't know how to 
handle money? they've never been trained. A woman's 
husband dies in middle life, as many do — many men die 
in middle life — and leaves her $100,000. At five 
percent, that narrows down to about $400 a month. 
Supposing she's got a lot of children. How can she 
educate and run a home on $400 a month? 

So what does she do with $100,000? She feels 
rich. So Aunt Mary needs help, and Uncle Joe needs 
help, and she's generous. All but six percent are 
bankrupt within eight years. Then what happens to them? 


Butler* They go to welfare — bankrupt! 

We had a testimony at this Commission hearing, the 
Status of Women Commission about educated, college women 
going to welfare — starving to death because they've 
lost all their money that they got in their annuities. 
They don't know how to handle money. 

One woman I know in this area. Her husband was 
sick a long time. It was obvious he was going to die, 
and he finally did die. He left a great deal of money. 
She'd never even written a check. How's a woman like 
that going to know how to hang on to her money for the 
rest of her life, so she'll have something to eat? 
She won't know how to do it. She won't know how to 
think it out. 

So I think that, gradually, Issue after issue is 
going to come up and different women will arise who have 
leadership abilities and skill in that issue, as they 
did at this Commission hearing. 

Men and Women Must Work Together to Solve the Issues 

Gluck: How do you think that the current women's movement 
compares to the suffrage struggle? 

Butlers It isn't comparable in any respect. Suffrage Just had 
one thing to do — to get women and men educated to go 
out and give women the right to vote. But that wasn't 
anything like the depth of all these Issues. They didn't 
go into these deep issues of their family lives or 
homes or children and all that. They Just said, "We want 
to vote; we want to get good people in government. 
We have a right to vote because we're citizens." It 
was a simple little story, and It took them seventy- two 
years to get that over. 

What do you think — how are you going to get 
over these deep discussions, deep Issues that we're In 
the midst of now! It's a revolution. 

And the men need it. They're in Just as bad 

shapre as we are; they're beginning to see that. In 
their consciousness [-raising] meetings these men are 


Butler: beginning to start in talking as they always have 

about their Jobs and superficial things. Now they're 
beginning to get down to brass tacks about themselves. 
They're saying, "We hate to admit it, but we're 
learning something from the women on this." 

I think the men and women are going to Join hands 
and work together to work this thing out. We can't 
do it without the men to help us. They'll want to help 
us i there are a lot of fine men, even in the Congress 
of the United States. Look at the two tough men I had 
to deal with, Congressmen Ben Johnson and Senator 
Reed Smoot, two of the toughest men in the United States 
Congress. *et both of them helped me get that bill 
through once they saw the issue. We've got to have the 
help of the men along with the women > we can't do it 
alone without their help. 

Even to get Woodrow Wilson to understand woman's 
suffrage took four or five years. And then, in the end, 
what did he do? When they finally won, he wrote them a 
letter saying it was the finest thing he'd done since 
he'd been in the White House. 

So women can get the men sooner or later. They 
must make them understand what the issue is. Pew can 
be a success without a nice home and family. Families 
are stabilizers. 

Clucks How do you think we can begin to reach the women? All 
the women who really aren't involved in the women •s 
movement — how do you think they can be reached? 

Butler: I don't think we're going to reach all those women, 

only the ones who are unhappy. And, there are plenty of 
them. They're getting more and more unhappy. The 
Women's Club here in Claremont where I am a life member 
are Just so smooth and happy? they don't want to talk 
about the Equal Rights Amendment even. They don't 
even know what it is. Yet, one by one, every now 
and then, they're suddenly getting a Jolt because 
the only thing that keeps them from that welfare is 
one little man, there. When he dies, often suddenly, 
then where are you going to go, see? Then they find 
out. Very few of them know how to conserve Insurance 
endowments . 

Gradually, more and more of them will begin to 


Butler: wake up to what's going oni then, all of a sudden, 

they'll come to some of our meetings or read a newspaper 
and hear about the rest of us who've had a lot of trouble, 
see? I'm personally In a neat position because I have 
had a fascinating career and a gorgeous education 
before ever I was married. Then I had a most amazing 
husband and another amazing career. I went right on 
developing myself as a writer, a teacher, a speaker, but 
first as a mother and a housekeeper. That took some 
doing also! But It was fun to have that change I 

I was successful because I was In an environment 
where I received training to carry on all those 
activities. I've been blessed. I've had a long, 
and complete, and successful life doing everything I 
wanted to do and everything turned out fine. 

Glucki Jessie, you're one of the few women— not even of your 
age — of over sixty even who Is Involved In the women's 
movement. How do the younger women relate to you? 

Gluckt Well, I've Just been all day with one of them. A 

perfectly darling girl. She was having an awful fight 
with her father i she had decided to move out of her 
home next month and go and live with a boy she hardly 
knows at all but [with whom she] Just had what she calls 
a platonlc friendship. I've been all day with her. 

Well, sir, I was able to Interest her in my life. 
Then I went over there with her to that high school. 
She has tremendous status In that school. She's a very 
bright and talented girl. She's talking about going 
to the Human Engineering Laboratory to find out whether 
she should be an architect or a musician. 

She's a talented musician, but now she's gone 
Into the drafting class, against the advice of her 
counselor. "What do you want to learn drafting for? 
I'm against It." I said to her, "I know why you need 
to learn drafting," and she said, "Why?" I said, 
"We need a lot of women architects to reorganize . the 
building of houses that are going up all over. There 
are very few women architects. If drafting is something 
you can do, you might grow into an architect and then 
you could have your music as your outside interest." 
She hasn't decided yet. It's better though to take 


Gluck: up architecture and science. Drafting can be a dead 
end occupation. 

Anyway, I said, "A brilliant girl like you, with 
this record in this school — you hang on to that home 
until you get educated. You can be the sweetest, 
loveliest child in that home you ever saw." So 
nobody can make you mad. Do everything they ask you 
to do." 

Gluck: She's Involved in the NOW chapter that you're in? 

Butler: Yes she is; she's been helping them write those 

releases and she helps them send them out. It Just 
shows . 

Gluck: So you're really accepted by the other women in the 

Butler: Well, no, not exactly. It took them a long time. 

At first they thought I was a farce, that I was Just 
putting on a show and that I had nothing real at all. 
Valerie Elliott told me they all thought that I was 
Just a make-believe, that I was Just trying to convince 
somebody I was something when I wasn't. They're 
beginning to see that that isn't so. 

Gradually, slowly, I'm digging in. I believe I 
have something to share with California. Remember, I 
wanted to carry on in California where I left off in 
Washington. I did not realize that newcomers to 
California have to start all over again at the very 
bottom to find a place to serve. 

Child Care Centers 

Gluck: Jessie, we have Just a few minutes and we should try 
to end now with your current work in child care. 

Butler i You remember what I did In the meat-packers industry. 
I have somehow had the vision to do something about 
this child care program. The men and women in the 
Washington Congress sent a bill to the president or 
millions of dollars to start child welfare centers. 
In the past we didn't start thlnga like that. When 
our great farms were started, the government didn't buy 
all the farms and start running themi they let the 
farmers own the farms and they sent out teachers to 
teach them how to make these farms work. That's why we 


Butlen have the big Department of Agriculture and why we've 
been the greatest industrial farming country in the 
world. It's from that. 

So, maybe we have to do the same with children. 
The thought came to me — with these tracts, and apartment 
complexes, that's the place to start your child care 
centers. You're still going to need them in the centers 
of the cities for the poverty areas, financed by 
city governments. 

But the middle class, cultured people need child 
care centers. There's where the leaders of this country 
come from, from the middle classes mostly. So the 
idea came that we must go to these tracts, as they're 
built, and put in child care centers right at their 
back doors so that the mothers can take the babies to 
the centers, close to where they live and then get 
them at night* 

How to pay ror it? The people who build the 
tracts must build the child care center. As a lure 
to people to buy houses. When you say to people, "We 
have a child care center in our tract," then they're 
going to buy those houses because the women are crazy 
for child care centers. Forty-six percent of the 
women in America today are working outside their homes, 
and they're going to go right on doing that. There's 
no use telling them to stop it. They aren't going to 
stop it. 

Anyway, I started talking to the people in Pomona 
where that great Phillips Ranch is developing. They've 
now built fifty-five houses up there and they're 
soon going to build eighty-eight more houses. The 
thing to do Is to get a good child care center started 
right in this beautiful area, up on those beautiful 
hills — get It going and get the firms that are building 
the houses to build the center. 

But the first program had to be endorsed by the 
Pomona Planning Commission. The head of the Status of 
Women Commission, Carolyn Heine, Informed me that the 
commission had already endorsed this type of child 
care center. The mothers who put their children In 
the centers would pay for the teachers who run the 
center — Instead of paying for baby sitters. So 

there's no expense to the state. The center would be 
close to the homes . 


Butler » Everybody at once thought this was a good way to 

get child care centers started In suburbs. In this 
state, In the next year, they're going to build two 
thousand tracts. They must have child care centers 
In every tract, and a playground. Up on the Phillips 
Ranch they don't need a playground because they have 
those great high hills where the children can romp. 

Adrian Wright, a member of the Pomona City Council, 
who Is a close friend of mine and Hugh's and lives on 
the edge of this big Phillips Ranch is enthusiastic 
about this plan. Gerry Shepard, a black man who Is a 
teacher in Chlno where all those delinquent boys are, 
has now been made chairman of the Planning Commission. 

Pomona has a new mayor. Hay Lepire. He was once 
the head of the Planning Commission and he appointed 
Gerry Shepard to be the new chairman. Gerry Shepard 
was thrilled with the idea. First I called Heine In 
Sacramento and she reiterated the endorsement of the 
Status of Women Commission for child care centers in 

Of course, they will still need centers in poverty 
areas. The state will have to build those centers to 
help the working people, the mothers who are on welfare, 
to secure Jobs and have a place to leave their pre 
school children. Local businesses also should construct 
centers as part of their facilities to help women 
employees with children. 

[Editor's note i The following Is a revised version of 
the original tape. The interviewee wished to have the 
material up-dated.] 

Butler i We had the first hearing in this area on June 27, 

1973, In the Council Chambers of Pomona City Hall. 
It was to persuade the builders of the Phillips Ranch 
to Include a child care center to serve the families 
in that tract i it was an historical occasion. 

To our surprise eleven Junior and Senior Women's 
Clubs, eleven Business and Professional Women's clubs, 
the YWCA of Greater Pomona, and six other women's groups 
endorsed the idea of having child care centers In 
tracts, mobile homes and apartment complexes. 

Butler* Also we received written endorsements from Senator 
Alan Cranston of the U. S. Senate » Yvonne Bralthwaite 
Burke, congresswoman in Washington, D.C.i March Pong 
from the California state legislature: the Woman's Bureau 
of the U.S. Department of Labor; The California Commission 
on the Status of Women t and Wilson Riles, head of the 
California State Department of Education. 

To our surprise, there was not a single word of 
opposition to the Idea, though many personal interviews 
were needed to explain the idea to members of the 
Planning Commission. 

At the hearing there were representatives from the 
American Association of University Women i the Unitarian 
Church of Pomona Valley j the YWCA of Greater Pomona » 
a kindergarten teacher; a director of nurses at the 
Olive Medical Center? and the president of the Pomona 
Valley chapter of the National Organization for 
Women. [See Appendix for the Resolution unanimously 
passed by the Pomona Planning Commission]). 

The month before this hearing, I was appointed 
chairman of the Task Force for Child Care Centers of 
Pomona Valley of N.O.W. by Susanne Hughes, then 
present of the Pomona Valley chapter. Both she and 
her professor husband were keen on getting this idea 
started. Fortunately for us there was a successful 
child care center in a large mobile home tract in 
Ontario; there are fifty-five children aged two to six 
with seven teachers carrying on. Several of us visited 
the Ontario Mobile Home Park to see for ourselves 
what auch a child care center was like in operation. 
"Looking was believing." Both the director and the 
assistant director of this center were proof that this 
was a practical Idea for both mothers and pre-school 
children. The builder was pleased that he had had the 
wisdom to Incorporate this center into the original 
plans for his Mobile Home Park. The center has been 
especially popular with single mothers who work. 

The Pomona hearing was followed by hearings in La 
Verne, Claremont, and San Dlmas. It was gratifying 
to have the La Verne City Council endorse almost the 
same resolution passed by Pomona— the first city council 
to accept this resolution. The present mayor hopes 
to make the resolution mandatory. 


Butler » At the moment because of the present industrial 
crisis in America, much of the building of tracts has 
been halted. Within two years, when building will 
start again, we believe that the groundwork laid in 
the Planning Commissions .of this area will have an 
effect. The builders need it to atrract buyers to 
their homes; at the same time, families need it to 
achieve more stable family life for all members. By 
that time we believe that child care centers will 
have become as vital to families with pre-school 
children as public schools are to school-age children. 

I am proud that our National Organization for 
Women in the Pomona Valley had the vision to see the 
importance of getting these centers into tracts, mobile 
homes, and apartment complexes for the middle class 
family. They have set an example to suburban communities. 

We hope that soon one of the new local tracts or 
mobile homes in this area will add a child care center 
to their building porject as was done by the builder 
of the Ontario Mobile Home Parki it lead to an immediate 
business success of this project. We shall certainly 
pass the news around when it happens through the sixty 
other NOW chapters in California. 

Gluck: Jessie, before we close, do you have any final thoughts 
you'd like to share with me? 

Butler t I did want to add one more thing. That is, in a strange 
way, from the time I've been a little girl, I've wanted 
to help women, and I really have done it. When I 
worked four years in Massachusetts with that Massachusetts 
Minimum Wage Commission, I had to go out and copy 
payrolls In candy factories, brush factories— horrible 
places I That was to help women, to find out what was 
going on with women that were being exploited like that. 

I Just love women. I've loved working with them 
and I've loved teaching them. I know how to teach 
them, and I can forget the fact that I'm critical with 
women. I see the wealth in those women, the virtue, 
the character, the goodness. I want to spend the rest 
of my life helping women to find themselves. 



[Editor's Note i Jessie Haver Butler, after reviewing 
the transcript, added the following section.]] 

Butler i I have a sort of summation I'd like to make. Destiny 
has been good to me. During a long life between the 
date of my birth In 1886 and today In 197^— a period 
of great growth for the United States, but less for 
women — It has been possible to have lived a life of 
complete fulfillment. And this, before many women In 
the United States had even found themselves. 

Thanks to my family, an AB degree was earned at 
Smith College and followed later on by graduate study 
at George Washington University In Washington, D.C. 
Incidentally, In those days I was the only "old lady" 
In the classes of young students! While In London 
for eight and one-half years when my husgand was a 
diplomat for the U.S. government, I furthered my 
education during the four years spent with Dr. 
James J. Hadfleld, the first leading Junglan pscyho- 
theraplst In London. 

Before marriage to Hugh D. Butler In 1920, when 
thirty-three years old, I had had a fascinating career 
as a statistician and Investigator for the U.S. Bureau 
of Labor Statistics and became the first lobbyist for 
women at the U.S. Capitol before the vote had been 
won. While living In London I was also Inspired to 
make a study of family management and child care, 
to find out why England had one of the lowest records 
of child deaths during the first years of life and 
our country was still sixteenth on the list. I found 
out but the New York publishers will not publish my 


Butlert book because they claim, "America has nothing to 
learn from England's household management." 

It was because of what I had learned In England 
that I was able later to have a further career as a 
writer, speaker, and teacher. In addition to being a 
home-maker and a mother. 

So when I leave this world I hope I will have a 
feeling of completeness and gratitude for the satisfying 
life that has been led. To this I must add the greatest 
gratitude of all for the twenty years that my husband 
and I spent with Ann Hee Colton In Glen dale as students 
of a new religion for the new age. Without her wise 
guidance and teaching we would never have survived Into 
the eightieth year bracket of old age. Both of 
us have always needed the Inspiration and support of 
a satisfying spiritual faith. 

For the future for women for whom I have always 
worked I will add the following words spoken by Betty 
Prledan when she was celebrating the tenth anniversary 
edition of her book, The Feminine Mystique, a book 
that started women on their new way Into the future. 
"We want to transcend the old definitions, not Just 
react against them. That Is the real affirmation. I 
would never go back — It Is scary to realize how far we 
have gone."* 

Then she admitted she was "not sure" what lies 
ahead but affirmed she Is more and more confident of 
women's "ability to handle It." 

*The Christian Science Monitor. Monday April 1, 




WHEREAS the concerned women of the community represented 
by the Pomona Valley Chapter of the National Organization 
for Women, and several other women's organizations, have 
brought to the attention of the Planning Commission much 
Information about the needs of children, the needs of 
mothers and benefits to children and their families, as 
well as the community, through the establishment of Day 
Care Centers as an integral part of residential develop 
ments , 

BE IT RESOLVED that it shall be the policy of the Planning 
Commission to support and encourage the development of 
facilities for Child Day Care Centers in conjunction with 
all new residential projects where the homes or- apartments 
are planned for families with children. 

AYES: Romo, Gaulding, Nabarrete, Vlietstra, Kawa, Hagstrom 
NOES: None 

APPROVED AND PASSED THIS 25th day Of July, 1973. 







2751 Mountain View Drive - Apt. E 
La Verne, California 91750 
Dec. 17, 

Dear Friends of Many Sears: 

We have so much to be thankful for 
in spite of some seemingly incurable 

Hugh: Its sad that Hugh can no long 
er be with me here in Hillcrest Homes 
yet he is physically well and happy. 1 
His eyes and his hearing is perfect. 

He still walks in that graceful manner. He is well' cared for at the 
Olive Medical Center in Pomona where I visit him every Friday after 
noon. He often play^the piano there; goes swimming every week where 
he is the star performer. His snow white hair has beautiful curls in 
the rear that makes him look more and more like Franz Liszt only he is 
even more handsome than that .great pianist ever was. His love for me 
is more affectionate and closer than ever. This makes me very hapt>y. 
He will be famous in his next life says our Metaphysical teacher. We 
have agreed that we want to be together again in the next life. How 
about that. 1 None of our four Insurance policies cover his expenses but 
we get aldng with the help of Rosemary and Richard. 

Jessie: I have had a fantastic. hand ling of the diabetes problem which was 
beginning to creep up on me. It was done thru diet only Closing 25 
pounds while ruling out sugars, fruits, white flours, pies, ice cream, 
most carbohydrates with lots of fresh vegetables, cooked and raw plus 
many vitamines and minerals. I &n down $0 blood count 105 from 153. 
120 is normal. I feel and look better than ever before. So its good 
to reach 88 safely thanks to a father and grand father who lived into 
the 90s. My brother died from Diabetes and now I remember that our 
father had it but it was never found out. Last week a doctor said I 
had a hernia hut two other doctors said he was wrong. Goody.' 3 years 
ago I had a killer called Emphasemia. Rosemary helped me to track it 
down. Now its given up. Death is having a hard Jime to catch me/ ?he 
Chiropractor to whom I have gone for ten years' has been a great help. 
He is now inexpensive thanks to Medicare and Blue Cross. He says I 
have still some years to go. I go to_'the free Jaauzzi baths here twice 
a week and to the YJfCA once a. week where I swim 5 times the length' of t 
long pool. Swimming is priceless for me and Hugh too. 

Dur Children and Grand Children: 

Rosemary and her husband, George Wohlhieter, have sold their little 
farm and moved to La Verne near their Brethren Church ^where Rosemary 
sings in the choir and plays in the Recorder Oroua. s he still teach 
es the 3rd grade in the Bonit*. Schools System. Ggf$ge is a technic 
ian in the General Dynamics in Pomona and for 20 years has been head 
of the Labor Movement in that huge firm. He is a darling husband 
skilled in the process of helping Rosemary to save their two beautiful 
children, Adrienne and Bob, in the throes of modern teenage problems 
that we all pray will soon get settled. I am grateful that Hugh and I 
escaped this era that so many parents are going thru tday. 

Richard living in a lovely home in Fairfax, Virginia, is head of a 
large Computer Department for Uncle Sam. He has a wonderful wife and 
and two darling little girls so life is good for them. 

- 2 - 
Extra-Curricular Activities of a Senior Citizen. 

Two new causes are going strong! one is of course Modern Nutrition 
and the fight to keep the American Medical Association from des 
troying this wonderful system of health. The second cause is to get 
ray text-book on Public Speaking For Women into a paper back and into 
Smith College where there is for the first time a new WOMAN PRESIDENT. 
Now and then I am invited to address college audiences, ^'hey seem to 
enjoy getting some of the ideas from an oldjLaidy aged 88. Recently 
the LA Aerospace Corporation sent out a limousine and chaflfleur to take 
me in for a lecture to 300 men and women which was also well financed. 
It was fun. 1 I am surprised that audiences seem to want to hear some 
of the anecdotes from the long life of a feminist. 

Some of the Joys of Growing Old. 

I never realised before that growin* old could be so interesting and 
for this discovery I am grateful. Of course the struggle to keep 
one's health never ends. In this beautiful home t 1 ere are no responsl 
bilitles so there is time in life to carry on with what one likes best 
to do. that keepjme more busy than ever before. Our noon dinner is 
unbelieveably wonderful.' The 66 Oldsmobile still carries me safely tc 
see Hugh artd to go to our Mscience church IqGlendale every week. in ^0 
minutes where my darling friends of 2^ years of association Join to 
gether in the beautiful services. 

Twenty- two years of spiritual teaching to create a new religion 
based on the Bible and the teaching of Jesus all led by R«*. Ann 
Ree Colton and supported by her l*t books of inspired writings has 
played a vital part in helping to maintain this long life. Let me 
know if ever you would like to see the list of books. I often think i 
Sl^mund Rehwoldty that great man who created the Lutheran Chnnches in 
Nebraska and I wonder if he would b.* glad to know of what Hugh and I 
have done to help this new religion for the)aew(age to begin. 

Conclusion.; S£ tjere you have our story, of the year of 197}*-. Chat's 
ahead sometim? s seems alarming but my faith in our country and its 
people will never end. We have come thru trying times from the 
pioneer age until now - yet we have always survived and constructed 
another new age of development. I am sure we will do this once more. 


With B|st Christmas Greetings to Everyone 


rssie Haver Butler 


Mrv J«..i« Mn»«r lullff 
J7JI Mounlo.x V..- Or »pl I 
la V«r»». Col. »I7JO 
i 714-371-1741 



Research and 





Jessie Haver Butlor (Mrs. Hugh D. Butler) 
Ln Verne CA^-f-g-twrvt , California 

Graduate of Central High School, Pueblo, Colorado 
AB Sr.lth College, Northampton, Kass. 1909 
Studied Public Speaking under Parliamentary Coach and 

Lectured to British Audiences 6 years residence in 

London. Also researched British Household Management. ** 
Graduate Work - Geo .Washington University, Psycholology 

and Public Speaking - 12 hours. 
Counseling Workshop - American Institute of Family Relations 

Dr. Paul Popenoe, Director; Los Angeles, Cal. 
Two yoar course in Creative Writing, Karen Elwood College - 

Hollywood, Cal. 

Assistant to Head of College Text Book Department 

The Macnlllan Company, New York City 
Sec. to Director and Asst. Director, Pulitzer School of 

Journalism, Columbia University - Two years. 
Statistical Clerk and Investigator, Kass. Minimum Wage 

Commission, Boston, Kass. Four years. 
Investigator, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cost of 

Living, Washington, D.C. Two years. 
Legislative Agent and Lobbyist at the Capitol. National 

Consumer's League; National League of Women Voters. 

Conducted Public Speaking Classes for hundreds of rr.en and 

women in Congress, the Embassies, State Dept. Women's 

Clubs, Junior Leagues, DC League of Uorr.en Voters, Busincr 

and Professional Women's Clubs, Scout Leaders, etc, 
Conducted Public Speaking Classes at Georgetown Junior 

College and High School - 9 years. Only Protestant 

on the faculty. 
Conducted Workshops on Public Speaking for General Federatior 

Women's Clubs Annual Meetings in all sections of the 

U.S. for eight years. 
Conducted Evening College Classes at Mt. San Antonla College 

V.'alnut, California. Five years. 
Conducted Public Speaking Workshops for Women' s Clubs in 

North and South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, 

Arizona, Wyoming, and California. 
Delivered 7k Lectures on The Eur:an Engineering Laboratory to 

Service Clubs in Southern California. 

Published TIKE TO SPEAK UP - A Speaker's Handbook for Women 
(Harpers) Revised 1950 and 1957- Used in Workshops all 

over the United States. 
Wrote Articles for the General Federation Club Woman; the 

Quarterly Journal of Speech. 

Wife, Mother Daurhter born in London whon 38 years old. Broast fed for 
Home Maker for * nine mor ths - as taurht by the British. 

53 years. Son born In London when kQ years old - also brcnst fed for 
Husband still six months. (The proudest achievement of all,) 

Living/ — — -_ 

* * If years of psychotherapy with Dr. James J. Hadfield of 

London, England (A Jung practitioner) 
1970. • Taught A class in Public Speaking for new leaders 

of the National Organization *or Women in Los Angeles. 
1973. Organized hearings for Child Care Centers in the Tracts, 

Prepared by Jessie Haver Butler, 1973 

INDEX - Jessie Haver Butler 

Anthony, Susan B., 3-4, 57, 65 
astrology, 29, 62, 83-84 

Brandeis, Justice Louis, 34 
Brigance, William N., 91, 93 
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31-32 

Catt, Carrie Chapman, 39, 46, 49-53, 56-62 

care of, in England, 78-79 

centers for day care, 111-115 

Consumers League (D.C. Consumers League) , 32-39, 41 
Costigan, Mrs. Edward, 38-39, 41 

Equal Rights Amendment, 61-62, 109 
eugenic babies, 47 


Fabian Society, 79, 93 

Feminine Mystique, The, 101-103, 117 

feminism, 22, 28-29, 55, 64-65, 69-71, 81-83, 115. See also women's 

movement . 
Filene, Edward, 29, 36 

General Federation of Women's Clubs, 88, 94-95, 98 
George Washington University, 86-87 
Goldmark, Pauline, 33, 34 

Hollis, Senator Henry, 34, 37, 39, 47 
Hunkins, Hazel, 32, 47 

Johnson, Congressman Ben, 35-36, 109 

Keating, Congressman, Edward, 34 
Kelley, Florence, 33, 37, 41-42 
Kent, William, 50-51 
Kent, Mrs. William, 45, 49 


Laidler, Harry, 42, 44 
League of Women Voters, 58-61 
lesbianism, 20-21 
lobbying, 34-39, 59 
Looking Backward , 3 


and career, 20-21, 54, 75, 89-90, 117 

attitudes toward, 64, 66-67, 71-75, 79, 97, 105, 109 

Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission, 28-30 

meat packing industry hearings, 40-42, 50 

men, relationship with, 66, 68-71, 108-109 

minimum wage laws, 33-39, 42 

motherhood, 78, 104 

National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) , 58-59, 62 
National Organization for Women (NOW), 103, 107, 111, 114-115 
National Woman's Party, 31, 45-49, 62. See also Alice Paul. 

Park, Maude Wood, 58 

Paul, Alice, 31, 39, 46, 47-49, 61-62 

physical fitness, 98-99 

P.T.A. (Parent Teachers Association), 83 

public speaking: 

for women, 90-95, 101 

study of, 76-77, 81, 86 

teaching of, 87-90, 98 

ranch life in Colorado, 2, 4-8 
religion, role of in life, 99-100, 117 
role models, 9, 20 
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 53, 89, 93 

secretaries, 22-23 

Shaw, George Bernard, 79-80 

Smith College, 11-12, 14-15, 17-21, 24-25, 68 

Smoot, Congressman Reed, 37-39, 109 

textile mills, conditions in, 42-45 


Wiley, Mrs. Harvey, 45, 49, 87 
Wilson, President Woodrow, 34, 48, 109 
woman's suffrage: 

and feminism, 64 

campaign, Colorado, 3-4 

campaign, Washington, D.C., 45-50 

committment to, 31-32, 39, 63, 65 

failure of, 60-61 

goals of, 108 

ratification campaign (of amendment), 51-54, 57, 61 

See also National Woman's Party, 
women : 

attitudes toward, in Washington, D.C., 35-36 

conditions of, current, 105-110 

conditions of, in Colorado, 3-4, 9, 28 

conditions of, in employment, 27-29, 34, 36, 42-45 

wages of, 26-28, 36 

See also minimum wage laws, 
women's clubs, 76, 81, 88, 109, 113. See also General Federation 

of Women's Clubs, 
women's liberation movement: 

attitudes toward, 101, 103-108, 117 

1920 vs. 1970, 108 

Yeager, William Hayes, 86-87, 93 

Feminist History Research Project Regional Oral History Office 

P.O. Box 1156 486 The Bancroft Library 

Topanga, California 90290 University of California, Berkeley 

Suffragists Oral History Project 

Miriam Allen deFord 

An Interview Conducted by 
Sherna Gluck 

1975 by The Regents of the University of California and 
The Feminist History Research Project 

Miriam Allen deFord 

TABLE OF CONTENTS - Miriam Allen deFord 

Interview History 
Biographical Data 


Family Background 1 

An Early Introduction to Suffrage 9 

High School Education: Three Generations 12 

"Girl on a Big-City Newspaper" 14 

The College Years 17 


Soapboxing for Suffrage 26 

Transition: Relationship and Attitude Towards Men 31 


Feminism, Old and New 35 

Feminist as Writer; Writer as Feminist 45 


"Women to Men" by Miriam Allen de Ford 48 



Miriam Allen deFord is a frail-appearing, yet vigorous 
woman. At eighty-five and despite a serious illness and several 
accidents in the past three years, she is still a disciplined 
and prolific writer, following her craft of some seventy-odd 

The Feminist History Research Project first learned of 
Miriam Allen deFord when she sent to the Women's History Library 
in Berkeley two photographs of Philadelphia suffrage activities, 
circa 1910, in which she appeared. Because I was developing a 
project on suffrage, I made contact with her to arrange an in 
terview during one of my periodic trips to Northern California. 

At that time, I knew only that Miriam Allen deFord was a 
writer and had worked in suffrage campaigns. In an exchange of 
letters, I learned of her involvement in the radical political 
activities in the San Francisco Bay Area beginning in 1920. 

She was married to Maynard Shipley, the well-known science 
writer and lecturer, and California socialist. Both with him 
and independently, she played an active role in the major radical 
causes of the day: she was a correspondent for the Federated 
Press, the labor wire service; helped Maynard Shipley organize 
the Science League of America during the anti-evolution fights 
of the 1920s; knew people involved in the Tom Mooney and McNamara 
cases; knew and was associated with many Wobblies (Industrial 
Workers of the World) , Eugene Debs, Harry Bridges, and others 
active in socialist and radical politics during the first three 
decades of the century. 

I taped two interviews with Miriam Allen deFord in March 
1973, shortly after her surgery for stomach cancer. In those 
two sessions we recorded some three and one-half hours of dia 
logue. In August, we recorded another two hours. In the interim 
between March and August, Miriam broke her shoulder and pelvis 
and was more frail than she had been in March. She had been 
concerned about interviewing because she is almost totally deaf, 
but only on a few occasions did this present a problem — moreso 
in the August interviews — as is sometimes apparent in the manuscrip 

The three interviews were conducted in Miriam's suite of 
rooms at the Ambassador Hotel in San Francisco. She moved into 
this hotel in 1937 after the death of Maynard Shipley, and has 

lived there alone since. In 1937 the Ambassador was a respect 
able hotel, but has gradually fallen into disrepair and disrepute. 
The neighborhood in which it is located, the tenderloin district, 
is now populated largely by "derelicts" of various kinds and 
"porno" movie houses. Several rooms on her floor were gutted by 
fire several years ago (and again one month ago) , but they remain 
unrepaired. Boarded up, they occasionally invite an enterprising 
homeless soul to sneak into the hotel and find rent-free shelter. 

Notwithstanding the general environment and the atmosphere 
of the hotel, Miriam Allen deFord maintains her own existence 
in a self-defined world which she describes as her "oasis in the 
desert." Her suite is maintained at her own expense and, indeed, 
is "an oasis in the desert." Her living room, a small corner 
room, is crowded with books: old feminist and radical books, her 
own published writings, reference books on crime and criminals — 
some of them too large for her slight and frail frame to handle. 
At one of her desks is a Royal typewriter, vintage 1935, on which 
she works from six to eighteen hours a day. 

The material which follows represents only a portion of the 
five and one-half to six hours of my interviews with Miriam Allen 
deFord and relates specifically to the subjects of suffrage and 
feminism. Although some decisions were necessarily made in the 
initial choices of the portions to be transcribed for this volume, 
there were very few problems with continuity. 

Only minor changes were made before the transcript was sent 
to Miriam Allen deFord for review. I anticipated that, as a 
writer, she would not be satisfied with the informality of the 
verbatim transcription, and would make many changes. Much to my 
surprise, her deletions and additions were minimal. In reviewing 
the changes together, she commented that she "always respects the 
editor." The material contained herein is, therefore, an almost 
verbatim transcription of those selected portions of the three 
interviews with Miriam Allen deFord. 

Sherna Gluck 

January 1974 


Personal Biography 

Born to Frances Allen and Moise deFord, August 21, 1888 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Married: Armistead Collier, February 14, 1915, divorced, 1920 
Maynard Shipley, April 16, 1921, widowed, 1934 


Wellesley, 1907-1908 

Temple University, A.B., 1911 

University of Pennsylvania, 1911-1912 


Author, 1907 to present 

Staff writer. Philadelphia North American, 1906-1907, 1908-1911 

Staff writer, Associated Advertising, Boston, 1912-1913 

Reporter, Ford Hall Open Forum, 1912-1915 

Public Stenographer, San Diego, 1915-1916 

Writer and assistant editor, house organs, Los Angeles, 1916-1917 

Editor, house organ, Baltimore, 1917 

Insurance claims adjuster, Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco, 


Staff correspondent, Federated Press, 1921-1956 

Writer, Writer's Project, Guide to California Cities, 1936-1938 
Reporter, Labor's Daily, 1956-1958 
Reporter, San Jose Reporter, 1959 

Professional Associations 

Fellow, American Humanist Association 

Member, Mystery Writers of America 

Board member, Science Fiction Writers of America 

Member, Rationalist Press Association 

Member, Author's Guild 

Published Writings 

Regularly published poetry and verse beginning 1907 in Scribners, 
Woman Voter, Birth Control Review, Harpers, New Masses. 

Love Children (biography) 1931 
Children of Sun (poems) 1939 

Biographical Data (con't) 

Published Writings (con't) 

Who Was When? A Dictionary of Contemporaries, revised edition, 


They Were San Franciscans (biography) , revised edition, 1947 
Shaken with the Wind (novel) 1942 

Psychologist Unretired; Lillien J. Martin (biography) 1948 
Up-hill All the Way; Maynard Shipley (biography) , 1956 
The Overbury Affair (Edgar Award, Mystery Writers of America) , 


Penultimates (poems) , 1962 

Stone Walls; Prisons from Fetters to Furloughs, 1964 
Murderers Sane and Mad (Award, Mystery Writers of America) , 1965 
The Theme is Murder Titories) , 1967 
Thomas Moore , 1967 
The Real Bonnie and Clyde, 1968 
Xenogenesis (science fiction) , 1969 
On Being Concerned (biography) , 1969 
The Real Ma Barker, 1970 
Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow (science fiction) , 1971 

Contributor of stories, articles and verse to magazines 
Represented by stories in 0' Henry Memorial Prize Volumes, 

"The Silver Knight," 1930; "Pride," 1934 
Verse in over fifty anthologies 
Humorous short stories in anthologies 
Editor, anthology, Space, Time and Crime , 1964 
Book reviews, San Francisco Chronicle, 1971 to 1974 

From San Francisco Chronicle, 5 January 1973 

The City's 'Most 

Remarkable' Writer 

By Mitchell Thorna* 

THE YEAR is 2251 A.D. 
and earth is threatened with 
destruction by the Anta- 
reans until a female geneti 
cist saves the day in a de 
nouement which offers a 
tasteful suggestion of sex and 
a wry little women's libera- 
eration twist. 

Back in 1973, in her tiny 
living - work room in the de 
caying Ambassador Hotel 
here, the author of that tale 
tells an interviewer: 

"Oh God, -I hope this isn't 
going to be one of those 
she's - so - old 1 - isn't • it - 


Miriam Allen deFord is 84 
years old. It's wonderful. 

A recent newsletter of the 
Northern California. Chap 
ter, Mystery Writers of 
America, called her San 
Francisco's "most distin 
guished and remarkable 
writer" and "the first lady 
of western letters." 

As evidence, the newslet 
ter listed more than half a 
dozen of Miss deFord's re 
cent works, all appearing or 
about to appear in maga 
zines and anthologies. They 
range from the Antarean 
fantasy, published in the De 
cember issue of Analog, a 
science fiction magazine, to 
a mystery story picked for 
the new Alfred Hitchcock 

The stories, essays, sociol 
ogical studies and reference 
works pour endlessly out of 
a 50-year-old Royal portable 
on a desk in the two-room 
suite at the Ambassador, 
which Miss deFord has oc 
cupied since 1936. 

It is hardly anyone's idea 
of a literary hotel. Once a 
solid middle-class establish 
ment, it stands at the corner 
of Mason and Eddy streets, 
now the crossroads of the 

"I'm not about to mdve " 
Miss deFord declares. 
"Where else could I get two 
comfortable rooms with dai 
ly maid service for a very 
moderate rent? 

"My chjef problem here is 
that I haven't room for 

The books fill every nook 
and cranny. Among them 
are her own— 18 of them— 
from "The Real Bonnie and 
Clyde" to a: work on Thomas 
Moore, the Irish poet; from 
"Love Children: A Book of 
Illustrious Illegitimates" to 
"They Were San Francis 
cans," a collection of early 
San Franciscana that still 
brings in royalties. 

Atop a bookcase stands a 
little ceramic bust of Edgar 
Allen Poe. It is the Edgar, 
the mystery writers' Oscar, 
awarded to Mis« deFord in 
1960 for "The Overbury Af 
fair," a book about "the 
murder trial that rocked the 
court of King James I." 

It is one of many prizes 
won by Miss deFord over the 
years for everything from 
poetry to an essay on U.S. 
economic problems. 

Seated among her books, a 
small figure in a checked 
wool dress, Miss deFord 
brightens when her visitor 
asks permission to smoke. 

"Do you mind if I 
smoke?" she replies, reach 
ing for a box containing sev 
eral brands of cigarettes 
and happily lighting up. 

"My doctor told me to 
quit, but I won't. At my age, 
there are few vices left." 

She talks lightly about her 
"ghastly trouble with my 
physique" during the past 
few years — a broken back, 
an operation for stomach 
cancer, a bout with pneu 
monia, failing eyesight. Miss 
deFord finds her age a bore. 

"I can't remember when I 
started to write," she says, 
but her first story was pub 
lished when she was 12. "I 
don't remember where, but 
T got a dollar and spent It on 
a silver napkin ring." 

That was in her home 
town. Philadelphia, where 
she became involved early 
in some of the social causes 
that were to give her a repu 
tation as something of a rad 

"At 14, I was on a soap 
box, campaigning for wom 
en's rights." 

She attended Wellesley, 
got a bachelor's degree at 
Temple, and did graduate 
work at the University of 
Pennsylvania before coming 
west in 1918. She played bit 
parts in early Hollywood 
films, worked as possibly 
the world's first woman in 
surance claims adjuster and 
held various other jobs, al 
ways writing — and selling 
— on the side. 

Not long after she came to 
San Francisco, Miss deFord 
married Maynard Shipley, 
the socialist writer-scientist 
with whom she campaigned 
against .the antj -evolutionists 
in the 1920s. He died in 1934. 
A handsome photograph of 
him stands on one of her 
bookcases, and the Ambas 
sador's management still 
knows her as Mrs. Shipley. 

Among the Shipleys' 
friends, besides the likes ol 
Jack London and poel 
George Sterling, were labor 
organizers Tom .Mooney and 
Warren K. Billings, whos« 
convictions in the San Fraiv 
Cisco Preparedness Day 
bombing in 1918 became an 
international cause celebre 

Miss deFord, who put in 
many years as a corre 
spondent for labor papers 
and news services, was 
asked by Mooney to write 
his biography. She visited 
him regularly at San Quen- 
tin and completed a manu 
script which Mooney, who 
died in 1942, eventually de 
cided against publishing. 

Billings, who was released 
from prison in 1939, was a 
frequent visitor to Miss de- 
Ford's suite at the Ambassa 
dor until his final illness. He 
died last September. 

"Everybody In the Feder 
ated Press (a labor .news 
service she worked for) was 
supposed to be a Commu 
nist." Miss deFord says, 
"but it wasn't true." 

During all those years, she 
was producing, in addition to 

Miriam deFord and Maynard Shipley in 1921 

At 14 

she was on 

a soapbox 

for women's 




her books, a flood of stories, 
poems and essays. "I 
couldn't begin to tell you 
how many. Hundreds and 

Nowadays, she spend? her 
smornings shopping, running 
errands, taking care of her 
correspondence. She starts 
working in the afternoon, 
frequently writes until mid 
night or later. 

"I always try to keep 
about half a dozen stories in 
the mail," she says. "I have 
a book lying around, but I 
never discuss books until the 
contract's signed." 

The interviewer found her 
working on a new, revised 
edition — the third — of 
"Who Was When? A Diction 
ary of Contemporaries," a 
reference work first pub 
lished in 1940 and still used 
in libraries throughout the 

"That has been taking up 
most of my. leisure time," 
Miss deFord says. 

She confesses that sh< 
runs out of ideas "regular 
ly ." but something alway; 
turns up. 

"Just the other day I wai 
reading a newspaper stor 
and I started thlnkinj 
'What if . . . ?' In sc 
ence fiction, that's whei 
you start." 

Miriam deFord today at 84 

From San Francisco Chronicle, 24 March 1975 

78 Books in Long Life 


Miriam deFord, 
S.F. Writer, Dies 

Miriam Allen deFord, not 
ed San Francisco mystery 
writer, died Saturday night 
in Kaiser Hospital at the age 
of 86. 

An author of 18 books, 
Miss deFord was acclaimed 
in 1972 by the local chapter 
of the Mystery Writers of 
America as San Francisco's 
"most distinguished and re 
markable writer" and "the 
first lady of Western let 

She had resided since 1936 
in the Ambassador Hotel on 
Mason and Eddy streets. 
She was known there as 
Mrs. Shipley from her mar 
riage to socialist writer and 
•dentist Maynard Shipley, 
who died in 1934. 

A native of Philadelphia, 
Miss deFord attended 
Wellesley college and 
earned a bachelor's degree 
from Temple University. 

In 1918 she left the East 
for Hollywood where she 
worked playing bit parts in 
films and as an insurance 
claims adjuster. After mov 
ing to San Francisco she put 
iri many years as a corre 
spondent for labor papers 
and news services. 

She counted among her 
friends writer Jack London, 
poet George Sterling and la 
bor organizers Tom Mooney 
and Warren K. Billings. 

Among her best known 
works are "The Real Bonnie 

Death at 86 

and Clyde," "Love Chil 
dren: A Book of Illustrious 
Illegitimates," "They Were 
Called San Franeiscanis," 
and "The Overbury. Affair." 

The last volume, "a book 
about the murder trial that 
rocked the court of King 
James I," as she called it, 
earned her the Edgar 
award, an Oscar for mys 
tery writers. 

In addition to her books, 
she produced a flood of slo- 
rie», poems and eutyi. 

No funeral fervicei will be 
held. Donation! may be 
made to the Friend* of the 
San Frandico Public Li 

From San Francisco Chronicle, 27 March 1975 

World of Books 

A Letter From 
Miriam deFord 

SHE LIVED a rich, full life - if not 
always a happy one. And she was an 
enormously gallant lady up to the end. 
Miriam Allen deFord. the distinguished 
San Francisco writer and critic, was 
crippled and unable to write when she 
died at 86 the other day. Yet within the 
month she called this office offering to 
DICTATE a review of a true crime book 
we had assigned her. 

Miriam Allen deFord Shipley, the 
widow of the socialist writer Maynard 
Shipley who died in 1934. was the author 
of 18 books and countless articles. She 
specialized in true crime ("The Real 
Bonnie and Clyde," etc.) A year or so ago 
a member of our staff asked her why she 
chose this specialty. Her answer was 

FROM 1920 to 1956, when it expired, I 
was with a labor wire service," she 
wrote. "That was the period when many 
leftwingers. including some of my own 
friends, were being sent to prison on 
charges of 'criminal syndicalism.' 

"They were not criminals, but were 
in San Quentin and I visited them there 
and wrote constantly about their cases. 
Then through an article I had published. I 
met, by correspondence, several inmates 
of San Quentin of another stripe. One, 
who became a well-known writer of the 
period but never stopped being a robber. 


became my friend after his release • • • i 
had for years be«n writing crime and 
detective fiction for the pulps, and I 
became interested in criminology as well. 

"There were two other influences: I 
knew Ethel D. Turner, the late writer, 
and her brother (then Warden) Clinton 
Duffy. And my husband did an enormous 
amount of pioneer work (now in the 
Bancroft Library, Berkeley) under the 
aegis of Stanford University. As I tell in 
my biography of Maynarrf" Shipley, 'Up 
Hill All the Way,' as a boy of 15 his father 
had him committed to a Maryland reform 

school as 'incorrigible.' 




• ; 

THERE WAS anbther thing: when we 
lived in Sausalito we became 
acquainted with a San Quentin guard and 
often visited him and his wife in their 
home and met other correctional officers 
there. One was the guard who got $25 
extra for a hanging. His pretty daughter 
was at a party I attended, very sore 
because a hanging had been postponed, 
and her father had promised her the $25 
to buy new evening slippers. 

"So you can see how I got into this 
field. Recently I had a visit from a 
subject (now out on parole) of my collec 
tion 'Murders Sane and Mad.' I was never 
more scared, but we parted amicably . . . 
Best wishes, Miriam." 

(First interview March 6, 1973) 

Family Background 

Gluck: Let's begin with your background. 

de Fordt Well, as I suppose you know, I was bom in Philadelphia. 
I graduated from the Girls' High School there and never 
left Philadelphia until I went to college. My parents 
were both doctors in a heavy industrial part of 
northeast Philadelphia. My father graduated from 
medical college a year before my mother, and they 
started in a neighborhood of shipyards and textile 
factories. I don't think there were many who could 
read or write in the neighborhood except the few 
doctors and their families, after the workers changed 
from Englishmen to Poles. 

I went to kindergarten in that section, but by 
the time I was ready to go to primary school, they sent 
me down to live with my grandmother in a more 
respectable part of the city, where my aunt was a public 
school principal. 

Gluck: Had your mother pursued her medical profession after 
she was married? Was she in medical school when they 

de Ford: As I told you, she had to stop in her sixties because 
she became deaf; until then she practised right 
along „ 

Gluck i Was she in medical school when they met? 

de Fordi No. She went to Women's Medical [Women's Medical 
College of Philadelphia] and he went to Jefferson 
MediQal College. My father's parents were both born 
in Prance, and although he was born in Philadelphia, 
it was in a section of the city that was then entirely 
French. He and his brother didn't speak English until 
they went to school. 

He worked his way through high school and college 
and medical college. One of the things he did was teach 
French. That's how my mother met him — she went to 
his French class. My mother was eight years older 
than my father. Actually, she always seemed younger 
though she was prematurely grey; I never saw her without 
grey hair. 

Gluck: What kind of family background did she have that she 
went to medical school? 

de Ford: She came from a family that had been in Philadelphia 
for about seven generations, I guess. They were born 
and brought up in a part of the city that now is slums; 
then it was mostly Quaker. All her early friends were 

Gluck i Was she a Quaker? 

de Ford: No. I was brought up in - I suppose you'd call it - a 
kind of generalized semi -rationalist atmosphere. 

Glucks Was your mother's mother a feminist? 

de Fordt No. My mother's mother was proud of the fact that she 
never in her life had crossed the street alone. When 
she was a child, her father took her, then her brothers; 
then, her husband and her sons. When my brother was too 
young to take her across the street, she had to have 
her daughters take her. 

Gluck s How did your mother happen to go to medical school? 

de Ford i Well, I suppose she'd had sort of vague Interests and 
yearnings about it for a long time. Then, after she 
met my father and after they became engaged - they 
were engaged for four years - he persuaded her that it 
was possible. I don't think my mother's family were 
at all pleased, but they had to reconcile themselves 
to it. 

de Ford: When my father was In his second year, she started. 
She was a year behind him. 

Glucki That was rather unusual In those days for a woman, 
de Ford: She graduated In 188? and he graduated In 1886. 
Gluck » He must have been a feminist, then? 

de Ford: To a certain extent, I suppose. I remember he refused 
to march In a parade once. He thought It would be too 
embarrassing to be one of the few men. But he certainly 
put nothing in our way and he was for women suffrage. 
If it had been a question of voting, he would have 
voted for it. But he had no particular connection with 
it otherwise. 

Ever since I can remember, my mother was for 
"votes for women" - which was the thing then. When I 
was fourteen she sent me down to suffrage headquarters 
to stuff envelopes. 

Gluck: Was she herself actively Involved? 

de Ford i Not very. After all, my mother was a very small, 

slight woman who practised medicine and ran a house 
and even mended clothes. Before she became deaf, she 
had sung in church choirs and she was very musical. 
She was a terrible cook. Fortunately, she never 
cooked except when we were out of cooks. But she did 
have all that she could possibly handle without doing 
anything very active. I don't think she'd have been 
physically able to inarch in parades or that kind of 

Gluck: She took care of the household herself as well as 

de Ford: Oh ye-s. As far back as I can remember, we did manage 
to somehow have what was then called a "girl"} cook 
and houseworker. When we were small, we had nurses who 
were usually Welsh coal miners' daughters from the 
coal mines in Pennsylvania. In fact, the first time I 
can remember thinking about — well, I didn't even know 
the word "feminism" then. 

We had a Welsh nurse and an Irish cook and the 
cook got married. It's the only formal wedding I'd 
ever seen, though I've been a witness at lots of 

de Ford: 

de Ford: 

Gluck : 

de Fordi 
de Ford: 

de Ford: 

marriages. This was a Roman Catholic wedding. The 
nurse took us to It. I think I was about six or 
seven and my sister was two years younger. 

The happy couple adjourned to the little row 
house on a back street that was going to be their home, 
and Gwlnnle kept us standing at the door, not going In. 
Of course, you can Imagine what It was; they were all 
grown people and we were the only children around. I 
know now that everybody had had plenty to drink at 
the reception, but of course I had no Idea of It then. 
The bride was all In white satin, with a veil. 

Some kind of argument came up. The bridegroom had 
to express his machismo somehow. One of his friends 
said, "Don't let her answer you back. Start your 
marriage right . " So he promptly knocked her flat on 
the floor. Gwinnie hurried us away. I was Just 
wild with indignation, and I remember saying, "He 
knocked her down because she wasn't as strong as he 
was. If I ever get strong enough, I'll get up and 
fight back." 

How old were you then? 

I think I was around six or seven. I don't remember 
which. From that time on, I was very much against most 
men and very much for most women. 

So your attitude applied generally to men? 
if you thought this was a specific man. 

It wasn't as 

I thought he knocked her down because she was a woman. 
And you thought this was how men behaved toward women? 

I was terribly indignant. Of course. I was used to 
a household where my mother practically ran everything 
and my father did as he was told - at least domestically. 
That was the first time I'd ever seen the old-fashioned 
male dominance, and It made me very, very angry. 

Did you generalize it toward all men? 

Yes, I did. I remember telling my mother about it and 
saying that he'd knocked ner down because she was a 
woman. My mother didn't like to tell a child that age 
that probably everybody was drunk [laughter] so she 
Just said, "Well, that's the way people of that kind act.' 


What kind of feminist was your mother? 

de Ford: As I say — remember, this Is all back In the 1890s, and 
as far as anybody was, she was all In favor of what we 
would now call women's lib. Of course, as a doctor she 
got the same pay that a man would get, so we never had 
that question In the house? of women doing the same work 
and getting less for it. I'm lucky because I'm In one 
of tne few professions where they don't ask you your 
sex or your age or your ancestry but Just whether you 

Gluck: It was rather unusual in those days for a woman to both 
work and to have a career. Did she have problems? 

de Ford: It was unusual for a woman to have a professional 

career, yes. Of course, that was before women were 
in offices; stenographers were all men. But In the 
working class — our wash woman was married and sometimes 
when a cook got married, she came back. 

I can remember once. We had one of those backyard 
privvies that the maid was supposed to use. One of 
our "girls" who had come back after marriage somehow 
managed to lose her wedding ring down It. She had 
hysterics because she said her husband would beat her 
when she got home. We had to call the professionals at 
night - I can see them still with the lanterns - and 
dig down and find her wedding ring to get her home 
again. [Laughter] 

I remember the little old washwoman - I've forgotten 
her name, a German name - tiny little woman with her 
face covered with smallpox scars i that was very common 
in those days. When she came Monday, she usually was 
bruised all over. Her husband got drunk every weekend 
and beat her up. She took it philosophically? she 
expected Itj that was what married life was like. 

All those things, you know, as I found out about 
them, made me feel more and more the way I'd started 
to feel. 

Gluck: Was that before the incident at the wedding? 

de Ford: No, that was afterwards. That was when I was, I 

suppose, nine or ten or something like that. I Just 
stayed down a year with my grandmother. Then we moved 
to another part of the city and I was brought home 

de Ford: and sent to school near where I lived. 

Gluck: In your childhood, though, your mother worked the entire 
time; she Just took off time right around the birth of 
the children? 

de Ford: How do you mean? 

Gluck « How many children were there In the family? 

de Ford« Three and I was the oldest. I had a sister two years 
younger and a brother five years younger. 

Gluck i When other children were born, did she continue to 
work and Just take off a few months? 

de Ford i Well, of course, when my sister was born, I was only 

twenty- two months old, so I don't remember much about It. 
But when my brother was born I was five. I can remember 
that they thought then I was too old to leave around 
the house; I wasn't supposed to know about those things, 
so I was sent to my grandmother's again. I never saw 
my mother until after my brother was born. 

But, as I remember, she never nursed any of us - she 
never could. As soon as the baby was old enough to be 
left - by that time, I think she did very little 
home visiting. Her patients came to her. So, It 
was easy enough to handle a baby and work at the same 
time. In our house that we'd moved to In the northwestern 
part of the city, what was other people's parlor 
downstairs was the office and waiting room. My father, 
In later years, had an office down town,, but my mother 
never did; she always had her patients at the house. 
Both their brass signs were outside the front windows. 

Gluck: So they practised together, then? 

de Ford: Not together, because my mother, I think, did most work 
in gynecology. And my father first was a general 
practitioner but became a genito-urinary specialist. 
That would be something my mother wouldn't be likely 
to do. 

Gluck: I see. She must have been among the very early women 
gynecologists . 


de Fordi People always say that. She was the second generation. 

de Pord: Her professors in medical college were the first 

generation. The Woman's Medical College was founded 
In 1857i when my mother was two years old. 

Gluck: Right. They would be the Elizabeth Blackwell generation. 

de Pord: She told us a lot of stories about her years In 

medical school that also added to my feminism. First, 
there were some courses that they had to go to at one 
of the men's medical colleges — I forget which one, 
whether It was Jefferson or Medico-Chlrurgloal or 
maybe University of Pennsylvania, I don't remember. 
Anyway, when they demonstrated an operation, they 
had all the students observe from rows of seats like 
a theater balcony. The girls had to sit at the very 
back. One day, one Impatient girl got up and walked 
right over people's heads down to the front and sat 
there. They made things so unpleasant for her that 
she never tried it again. My mother said the male 
students used to yell after them in the street i I don't 
know what they yelled. 

de Pord: The men resented very much having women study medicine 
with them. 

Gluck i Then when you were growing up, did you think that you 
would go into a professional career? Did you expect 

de Ford: It was taken for granted that I was going to study 

medicine and Inherit both my parents' practices. But, 
you know the younger generation; the one thing I would 
never do would be to study medicine. Besides, from 
the time I was twelve, I knew I was going to be a writer 
and I'd started even being published; there was no 
question of my doing anything else. 

So from a very early age, you knew you would go into a 
profession, and then quite young decided on writing? 

Oh yes. It was taken for granted that we all would 
earn our living. My sister became a teacher and ended 
up as a supervisor of Industrial arts in the Philadelphia 

Gluck: Was it assumed that you would be a professional as well 
as being married, or it didn't matter? 

de Ford: 


de Ford: Well, I don't think the question ever came up. As 

far as that goes, my sister never did marry. I think 
my family were a bit surprised when I married twice. 
I never remember any discussion on that point at all. 
It was taken for granted that whatever I did I would 
keep on doing. 

Glucki If you were married or not? 

de Ford: I suppose so, but nobody ever said anything. Remember, 
this was still the Victorian age. My mother was a 
doctor but she never mentioned any question about sex. 
Nobody ever told me anything. I found out by reading 
my parents' medical books. When I was eight years 
old, I had read so many of them - especially my 
mother's gynecological works - that I gave my sister a 
long, detailed account of just how one handles pregnancy 
and childbirth. I think I was eight then. She said, 
"WeJ.l, what I don't understand is how the baby gets 
there." I said, "That's the part I haven't found out 
yet, but it isn't important." [Laughter] 

I can remember very well when I was a little older, 
sitting on the floor In the waiting room in my parents' 
office when there was nobody else there and reading 
Kraft-Eblng fPsychopathia Serualis]. If I heard a 
footstep, I'd get up and consult the dictionary quickly. 
After my father died, my sister sent me the Kraft-Ebing 
and I never saw such a boring, dull book In my life. 
[Laughter] I still have It somewhere. 

Gluckt Were your parents part of any kind of radical tradition 

de Ford: No. As far as politics goes, we were Democrats in a 

Republican city; and a very corrupt Republican city where 
kids would jeer "Democrat" at you down the street. We 
took The Record, which was a democratic paper. Of course 
every respectable person in Philadelphia then took 
The Public Ledger, but we also took The Record. I 
suppose we were the only Democrats I knew. 

My father considered himself something of a 
liberal; I think he once voted for Debs. Of course, my 
mother couldn't vote. 

I do remember - and I can't remember how young I 
was but I was quite young - when Cleveland was elected 
the second time. I remember my mother saying, 

de Ford« 

de Ford i 

"I thought I'd die without seeing a Democratic president 
again. I'm so happy. 

Her feminism didn't come out of a radical past? 

No. My mother never had any radical connections, and 
my father was horrified when I became a real radical. 
He wrote me long, long letters about how superior his 
mind was and how he'd been all through this and how 
It was Just youthful exuberance and I'd get over It. 

An Early Introduction to Suffrage 


de Ford: 

Gluck : 
de Ford i 

de Ford: 


Do you recall when you first went down at fourteen to 
the suffrage headquarters If there were other young 
girls; or were you quite unusual? 

I don't remember anybody my age. There were young 
people. Of course, to me at fourteen they seemed 
grown up. As I say, good Lord, fourteen — It was 
1902 . I have a very vague memory; I don't even know 
where the office was anymore. 

How did the women there treat you? 

They made a kind of pet of 
So It was rather unusual for somebody that young? 

They were very nice to me. 
me because I was so young. 

I suppose. I would never have thought of It. It was 
my mother who sent me down. She had no time to do 
anything so I was her surrogate. 

Besides, my parents taught us to be Independent. 
I was sent downtown alone by trolley car to run errands 
for them when I was nine or ten. At thirteen I had 
my own latchkey. (Of course, that didn't keep them 
from worrying - and punishing us - If we came home 

Besides the Incident where your mother sent you down 
to the suffrage headquarters, were you associated when 
you were quite young with the suffragists at all? 


de Fordj 

Gluck s 

de Ford: 

Gluck » 
de Ford: 
Gluck : 
de Ford» 

No, I can't remember. We had very few social contacts - 
my parents were too busy - but I recall a medical class 
mate of my mother's who was a suffragist. 

Of course, when I was fourteen I went down to 
headquarters and from that time on I got to know all 
the people down there. The woman - then young - who was 
In charge of headquarters was a very nice woman named 
Caroline Katzensteln. I remember her. I remember 
vaguely some of the other people there; a French 
woman who'd lived In England for years and then moved 
to America, and a few others. 

By the time I was eighteen, I was really working 
for them. I don't think I'd done any writing for them 
yet . By that time - between high school and college - 
I was on the Philadelphia North American and I was 
also doing I suppose what we'd call public relations 

Then, when we had the parades - New York would be 
the national one - I always went up. 

Have you any connection with this Women's History 
Library? [A discussion of the relationship between the 
Library and Feminist History Research Project occurred 
off tape.] 

I saw the pictures you sent to the Women's History 
Library i of the Philadelphia headquarters, and a 
parade . 

Yes, as I remember, one picture Is of the staff at the 
Philadelphia headquarters. I think that must be in 
1910 or so. And then there's one In 190? or something 
like that of the Philadelphia contingent at the national 
parade in New York. 

You didn't go to those parades, did you? 

Yes, I'm holding on to the banner. [Laughter] 

How old would you have been then? 

Well,. I don't remember Just which year it was. If it 
was 1907 I was already working on a paper. I would have 
been nineteen years old. 

Gluck i 

Did you go on your own? 

Women's Suffrage Parade, New York City, ca. 1910. The Pennsylvania delegates 
assembling. Arrow points to Miriam Allen deFord. 


de Ford : 

de Fords 

de Fords 

G lucks 
de Fords 

de Fords 

Yes. My mother didn't have time. I was the representa 
tive of the family. My father was all for woman's suf 
frage but he would have been ashamed and embarrassed to 
have been — there usually were about — oh say, out of several 
hundred women in a parade, there would be a contingent 
or maybe half a dozen men, and they always looked sort 
of beaten as if their wives had said, "You go or else!" 

In that 1907 picture — 

I think it is, I can't remember exactly. But the 
dates are on it anyway. 

That was actually in New York, though. 

Well, what they did was — I don't know how far it 
wentj I don't know how far south or how far north. 
But I know that Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania 
were at the parade in New York. I don't remember 
whether it was Labor Day or what the occasion was. 
It was an annual thing. I think that time in the 
picture was when the whole parade was led by Inez 
Mulholland, who was a beautiful woman, and she was 
dressed in armor and mounted on a white horse. 

I always thought that was a later one — 1913 or so. 

Well, that might have been later. I was at that parade 
too, but I don't remember Just when that was. I know 
she died of pernicious anemia because they didn't 
have any cure for it then. Now, she'd have recovered. 

You would go to the parade every year? 

As long as I lived in the East, yes. Every city would 
have its own contingent with a banner in front giving 
our locale. I think this picture was taken by some news 
photographer when we were forming before we started to 

We got a lot of Jeering from the sidelines, but 
we didn't retort. There was never any violence, if 
that's what you mean. Nobody threw anything or anything 
like that» they Just laughed and made fun of us. Just 
as when we used to pass around the petitions after 
soapbox talks. A lot of people would sign with phony 
names, you know, like "Luke McGluke" or "Gyp the Blood," 
and that kind of thing. 


Were there speeches at the end of the parade, 
there any sort of rally or anything? 



de Ford: I think probably, but I don't remember. For one thing, 
wa weren't at the head of the parade; we were somewhere 
way back. All New York went first, because New York 
was always the largest contingent . 

Gluck: Do you remember parades in Philadelphia itself, too? 

de Ford: I don't remember. We must have had parades, and if 
we had, I'd have been in them. 

Gluck: Did you write any of the literature of that group in 

de Ford: I doubt it very much. For one thing, I left Philadelphia 
in 1911 and then came back for a year and did graduate 
work at Pennsylvania. I never lived in Philadelphia 
after 1912. And before that I was Just the youthful 
kid around the office, and all I did was Just fold 
things and stuff them into envelopes and that kind of 
thing — run errands to the post office. 

Gluck: But from that very early Involvement, you remained 
continuously involved until you left Philadelphia. 

de Ford: Yes, from that time on I always had some kind of 

connection. I got to know all these people, you see, 
and they would know other people. 

High School Education! Three Generations 

Gluck t You went to a girls' high school, you say? 

de Ford i Yes. It's now called the Philadelphia High School for 
Girls and is in an entirely different part of the 
city. Usually, the principal of the school was a man. 
All the teachers were women. It was a very large high 
school. At that time it was the only high school for 
girls; the other one, the Central High School, was 
only for boys. 

Gluck: The high schools were separate? 

de Ford: There were no coeducational high schools then. 

Gluck: Was that Just true in Philadelphia or was that generally 


de Ford: No, It was everywhere. I don't think anybody had ever 
heard of a coeducational high school when I went to 
high school In 1902. My grandmother told me that when 
she was high school age (she was born, I think, 
In 1833 or something like that), the only way a girl 
could go to high school was that they had classes on 
Saturday morning for girls - as a special favor. She 
went to a private school. I asked her what she 
learned. She learned some French and to play the 
piano after a fashion and things like dancing and 
etiquette and that sort of thing. 

Then when my mother went to high school, she went 
to the same high school I did; they had It five days a 
week by then . But she had to drop out because her 
father died and she was the oldest girl and, of course, 
the girl has to look after the little ones. 

Gluck: Was this run by the city, this school, or was this 

de Ford: Oh no. It was the public high school. I think the 

Quakers had a coeducational school in Germantown, but 
I don't know? I don't know anybody that went to it. 

Gluck: Was the curriculum different than the one in the boys' 

de Fordi Well, in our high school, we were divided Into three 

sections. One was what they called the General course; 
most of those girls Just finished their education in 
high school or they went on to what was then called the 
normal school and became elementary school teachers. 
Then there was the Classical course; that was college 
preparatory. You had four years of Latin and you took 
two or three other languages - either Greek, French 
or German. As evidence of a little snobbery, we 
considered the Greek classes just a little above the 
French and German ones. 

Then my course - I was In the first one - the 
other college preparatory course; we called that Latin 
Scientific. In those days, science was all German. We 
had four years of Latin and four years of German. 
Though my father was French, I never learned any 
French until I went to college. 

Gluck « That was, in effect, because they were planning on 
your going to — 

de Ford: That course was college preparatory for people who were 

more scientific minded. I wasn't particularly Interested 
In science then and I don't know now how I got Into that 
thing. There was only one section of us all through 
the four years. Now, I don't know how they have It 
arranged — probably very differently. 

Glucki By that point, you decided though you weren't going to 
be a doctor? 

de Fordi No, but I also think what I wanted was lots and lots of 
English; I got more English in the Latin Scientific 
than I would have got in the Classical. 

Gluck: I see. So it wasn't because you were still thinking 
about taking up — 

de Ford i Oh, no. I wasn't interested in science at all. 

Gluck: When did you reject the idea of going and taking over 
your parents' medical practice. Do you recall? 

de Ford: I don't think I so much rejected it as Just ignored it 

and let it drop, f Laughter] They didn't Insist because 
they probably decided I wasn't going to be a very good 
doctor if I did; if you do a thing against your will, 
you're not likely to be very good at it. 

Gluck : You say you were writing by the age of twelve? 

de Ford: Well, that of course is rather facetious. I had a story 
published somewhere in some paper - I can't remember 
which - and I got a dollar for it. Actually, I started 
being published at about eighteen. 

After I got out of high school, I had a scholarship 
at Wellesleyi but that was Just for tuition. My 
parents couldn't pay for the difference, and so my father 
treated me to six weeks in a business college during 
my vacation after I graduated from high school. 

'Girl on a Big-City Newspaper' 

de Ford: Then, for a year I worked on the Phlladelphlan North 
American , and I went back to it later. 


Gluck: What was that exactly? 

de Fordi It was one of the biggest newspapers In the city then. 

Gluck : It was a daily paper? 

de Ford: Yes. It's defunct. It was owned by John Wanamaker's 
brother, Thomas. I was in the Sunday department. 

Gluck » How did you happen to get that Job? 

de Ford: That's a long story. There was a section called the 

Women's Section; eight pages on Sunday. It had, among 
other things, a department run by a then well-known 
novelist who called herself Marion Harlandj she was 
Albert Payson Terhune's (_the writer] mother and her 
real name was Mary Virginia Terhune. 

One of the things she had on her page - besides 
answering questions and all - was a sort of club, by 
correspondence. I've forgotten — girls, you know, 
who corresponded with each other on various things. 
Then somebody in Philadelphia (the paper was syndicated, 
and had eight other papers all over the county) 
decided to make a real club of it and have meetings. 

So we did. I belonged to It from the very 
beginning. Then this woman who was appointed editor 
of the section, for some reason — I suppose Just a 
matter of publicity — came to one of our meetings. 
It was Just when I was getting through business 
college. She decided that I was Just the person she 
was looking for. It was a combination, I suppose, of 
typing all the letters, and feature writing. 

Gluck: I see. What kind of articles did they have? 

de Ford: When I went back later f after a year at Wellesley] I 
did nothing but writing;" we had another stenographer. 

Gluck: What were the articles that they had? What kind of 
articles were these features? 

de Ford: For a while I ran a health and beauty column. [Laughter] 
Also, I did some of "Marion Harland's" work for her; 
answering letters. (She was in New York and mailed in 
her copy.) One thing I'll never forget. I opened all 
the letters and some were sent on to her that I couldn't 
answer and some I took care of. A good many of them were 
commonplace things to which we Just sent some kind or 


de Ford: 

Gluck « 
de Ford i 

de Ford: printed material. But I remember once a photograph 
came out of the envelope of a nurse in uniform, 
a registered nurse, and a letter saying, "Will you 
please look at this picture before you read any more 
of my letter. Then, If you've looked at It, will you 
please tell by looking at me whether you can tell I'm 

Was that printed? 


No, It was not. I wrote her and told her that It was 
utterly Impossible to tell from anybody's appearance. 


In other words, a social question like that was not very 
usual then? 

I don't know. I got plenty of others In that line. 
Some of them my superiors in the office took away 
from me because they didn't think an eighteen-year- 
old-girl ought to answer them. 

Gluck: In this club that you were In, before you got the Job — 

de Fordt We just had meetings and we went to picnics in the 
summer. It was a social club, but it got me a Job. 
Unfortunately, my to-be editor had already engaged 
somebody she didn't like and was trying to get rid of. 
So she'd keep writing me all that summer. I was working 
then. I got a Job with the people who published the 
theater programs, you know, the regular — 

Gluck: Was that connected with Edward Bok, the later editor 
of the Ladies Home Journal? 

de Ford: No, I never knew Bok. I knew nothing about the 
Ladles Home Journal; anymore than the Saturday 
Evening PosfT" 

But finally, she got rid of this woman. Ch 
Thanksgiving Day - I remember we were at the table 
having Thanksgiving dinner - she phoned me and said, 
"Come right down. You've got the Job." I deserted 
the turkey and went straight down to the North American 
and started working; we didn't have holidays in those 
days on newspapers. [Laughter] 


Gluck: Was your idea then to go Into newspaper work, or was 
It Just a complete accident? 

de Ford: I hadn't thought about it until I met her, but it was 
a chance to write and be published and that's all I 
was Interested in. After I'd been there a few months, 
I wrote a long series of articles for a Baptist magazine 
(I forget its name) called "A Girl on a Big City 
Newspaper" - using up my material as fast as I could. 
[Laughter] Prom that time on, I wrote everywhere, 
especially poetry. In those days, I think I must have 
had hundreds of poems published. 

Gluck: So it was primarily the poetry? 

de Ford: No. I wrote a short-short story a week for our section, 
besides a long series in verse about an old lady and 
her canary; she gathered advice from its chirps. 

Gluck: Were the feature articles ever related to the feminist 

de Ford t No, of course not - never. 

Gluck: That never would have been published? 

de Ford: No. We Just took that for granted. As I remember, 

none of my editors on the North American were married, 
the women. There was a woman photographer on the 
paper, which is very unusual in those days. She 
photographed for the society section. She was divorced. 

The College Years 

de Ford: I did my freshman year at Wellesley and then, as I 

said , my scholarship gave out and I had no more money 
so I had to do something else. What I did was come 
back and live at home and enroll in Temple University; 
it was then very different from the enormous place 
it is now. 

Our classes were all in the evenings or on 
Saturday and the students were mostly teachers. The 
College of Liberal Arts was very small. But I made 
up my mind that I would graduate the same year as my 


de Ford: Wellesley class. In the summer I made arrangements 
with the paper and went to the summer school of the 
University of Pennsylvania and then had It credited 
to Temple, to give me enough credits. 

Glucki I sea. How long did you work on the paper before you 
went to Wellesley? 

de Ford i From November to the next Setpember. 
Gluck: And then you went to Wellesley for a year? 

de Ford: And then I went to Wellesley. But then a short time 
after I came back, this Ernestine Allen called on me. 
Of course, I had to get a Job right away. I can't 
remember now - I've had so many Jobs I can't remember. 
I think I was then a secretary to a doctor, an eye 

Anyway, she came to see me and asked me to come 
back. They'd sent her up. I was too shy and timid to 
ask what my salary would be, but it was raised a little 
[laughter] to $15 a week. I went back and I was with 
them then for three years. Then we had a stenographer 
and 1 was Just an assistant editor. 

Gluck: For this women's section? 
de Ford: Yes. 

Gluck: Women Journalists were rather frequent in those days, 
weren't they? 

de Ford: There were very few women regular reporters j there were 
one or two, I think, but not on my paper. This was all 
long before the days of the Newspaper Guild. I 
remember Van Valkenburg, our editor- In-chief , used to 
say that the North American turned out the best 
reporters in the United States. He told that to one 
man he was in the process of firing. The reporter 
said, "Yes, they sure turn them out - to walk." 

Everything was on a very definite slave basis. 
One man I knew got fired because he went up in the 
elevator with the edit or- in-chief and didn't take his 
hat off. 

Gluck: Were the women on the newspaper staff paid less than 



the men? 

de Ford « I'm pretty sure they were. But these things are 

relative. As my husband used to say, "Whatever happens, 
you get your hay and oats." When we paid thirty- 
five dollars for the rent of a three-story house, for 

My first year on the North American, I got ten 
dollars a week; the second year I got fifteen. Our 
Sunday editor, who was quite high up in the hierarchy, 
got fifty a week. I know that. My editor, Myron 
Wybr&nt Smith, who also became my very good friend, got 
twenty-three. Whether people doing the same work got 
the same pay, I wouldn't know; I don't think there 
were any women doing the same sort of thing as any of 
the men . 

Gluck i 

de Pordi 

Gluck : 

de Ford: 
de Ford: 

Generally, the women did very different work than the 

I don't think there were any women doing the same kind 
of work. There may have been on one or two New York 
papers, but there weren't on ours. I did have two 
editors before Myra who had been reporters on a Chicago 
paper. They always wore hats with veils in the office} 
they said when they were reporters they had to show 
they were ready for instant assignments, Just like a 

What kind of subjects did you pursue when you were at 
Wellesley for that year? 

What kind of what? 

What plan of study did you pursue? 

Languages are the things that Interest me. I took 
French and Greek and advanced English? I took three 
English courses. I had more German later at Temple. 
I took lots of Latin all the way through graduate 
school, but English was my major. Unfortuately, 
at that time, Wellesley made you take freshman math. 
The part of the brain that thinks mathematically was 
left out of me. Three days before I was to graduate 
from Temple with high honors and a graduate scholarship 
at the University of Pennsylvania, I still had to 
pass off a freshman algebra condition; I'd taken the 


de Ford: examination three times and failed. (I've never taken 

any math again, of course, and I've completely forgotten 
all I knew.) 

I was simply desperate. We had examination books 
you bought in the bookstore. I got mine in advance and 
I pencilled very lightly little things like the 
binomial theorem. [Laughter] I somehow got through 
the examination. 

The mathematics professor who conducted it — I'd 
never forget him — his name was Napoleon Bonaparte 
Heller. He looked over my paper, and I said, "Did 
I pass?" He looked at me with a peculiar expression 
and said, "Well, let's say so." So that's how I got to 
graduate school. 

Gluck: When you were going to college, were you hoping to use 
your education to aid in your writing? 

de Ford: I don't think I ever thought about it? everybody got 

educated, you had to go to school as a matter of course. 
In the college preparatory courses In high school, most 
American girls from the Classical course went to nearby 
Bryn Mawr. Most of us in the Latin Scientific course 
wanted to get farther away from home. Cue of my 
friends In high school went to Goucher, two of them 
went to Bucknell, two to Cornell, and so on. One - 
later an M.D. - went with me to Wellesley. 

I was a year behind my high school class in college 
because I'd had that year out. 

Gluck: What sort of experiences did you have at Wellesley in 
terms of the role that women expected to play? 

de Ford: None? it was a woman's college. I think, the way I 

was brought up, I just took it for granted that anything 
I wanted to do, I could do. I don't think I ever thought 
about pay, because everybody's pay was so bad. 

I can remember when I lived in Boston, working In 
an office. I first went up there in the summer after 
I hac. seen my former class graduate in Wellesley. I 
stayed up the rest of summer and worked In various 
offices as substitute for girls on vacation. 

In this place the office manager called me aside 


Gluck « 

de Ford: 

de Fords 

de Ford: 

de Ford: and said, "Don't tell any of the other girls what you 

make because you're a college graduate and you get more 
than anybody." I was getting seven and a half a week. 
They were getting seven . 

You were making more than that on the newspaper, 
weren't you? 

As I say, I got ten dollars at first and then fifteen. 
I never got above that on the North American. 

Were most of your professors at Wellesley women? 

Most of them were then . There were men but I never 
happened to have any. Now, I think almost half of 
then are men. 

Do you recall if they were primarily single women? 

Most of them were, yes. I don't remember if any of 
them were actually married, some were widows. In high 
school, my freshman algebra teacher was an old friend 
of our family who was a widow, but I don't think there 
were any women teaching who were still married. 

Gluck s If they were going to get married, they usually quit 

de Fords I suppose so. They Just took it for granted that when 
you got married you left your job. Of course, a great 
many girls take that for granted now. 

Gluck: Did you have that attitude, or did you not think about 

de Ford i Oh no. I would never have given up my work for the 
sake of being married - hardly! 

I remember a few years ago, a girl I knew - in 
fact, one of my editors In a publishing house - write 
me that she was leaving because she was getting married. 
So I wrote back and said, "What about your fiance. Is 
he leaving his Job because he's getting married?" She 
never answered. (Laughter] 

Gluck: Most of the girls you went to school with, for 
Instance at Wellesley, had that same attitude? 


de Ford: It's a large college, so you can't say "most" of them. 

In my own group, most of them didn't marry » most of them 
became teachers . I had twin chums all through grammar 
and high school, twin sisters. One of them became a 
teacher, an elementary teacher, and then left to get 
married; she had four children. Then, times got hard 
and she went back to teaching while her husband was 
still alive. That happened sometimes. 

Most of the girls I knew, if they got married 
didn't work anymore. Of course, some of them - even 
the ones who didn't get married - didn't take jobs. They 
lived at home and took care of aged parents, that kind 
of thing. I hear occasionally from one of my classmates 
still who never married; she just took care of her 
parents till they died. 

Gluck» She didn't pursue any career? 
de Ford: She never worked. 

Gluckj When you then left Wellesley and went to Temple, that 
was then a coeducational school, wasn't it? 

de Ford i Oh yes, it always had been. I suppose there were more 
men than women in all my classes, but there were plenty 
of women . 

Gluck: How clid you feel about that educational experience and 
being with men as compared to Wellesley? 

de Fordt I was very unhappy that I had to. When I was twenty, I 
had one Saturday evening a month to myself. You know, 
you never get to be twenty again. My life was made up 
entirely of work and study. I'd usually do most of my 
homework on the streetcar going to and from work. 

I suppose most of the teachers at Temple in those 
days were not so distinguished as the ones at Wellesley, 
but they had very high standards. I got exactly the 
same kind of teaching as at Wellesley. Afterwards, I 
had one or two rather distinguished teachers at the 
University of Pennslyvania, but I can't say that they 
were any better as teachers. 

Gluck: You were back at the newspaper then, while you were 
going to Temple? 

de Fordj Yes. Most of that time. I think all the time I was 


de Ford: going to Temple, I was working on the North American. 
I had other jobs - such as medical secretary - but I'm 
confused as to the dates. I know I was four years 
altogether on the paper. 


de Ford: Then I left them [The North Amerioani to go up to Boston 
to live. Like most young people, T~~wanted to get 
away from home. 

Gluck: So you worked on the paper for about three years then? 

de Fordt No. I'd say about four years, counting six months before 
college. Then when I went up to Boston, among all the 
numerous kinds of Jobs, I started doing occasional 
feature stuff for the Boston Post. 

Gluck » As a free lancer, though? 

de Ford: Yes. From that time on, I was free lancing. Not 

until about, oh I suppose, thirty years ago at the best, 
was I able to earn my living simply by writing j very 
few writers can. 

Gluck « You were always doing something else. 

de Ford: I was an Insurance claim adjuster for fire years, for 
Instance. I've had all kinds of jobs. 

Gluck: But the whole time, you were always writing. 

de Ford: Yes, I was writing all the time - and selling! but 
not selling enough to live on . 

Gluck » But you didn't go to another newspaper, then, in Boston? 

de Ford: No, I didn't go on a paper. In fact, I think I made 
one or two inquiries but there Just weren't any Jobs. 

Gluck: Did you have any sense of the kind of career you could 
pursue that would let you write and earn enough money? 


de Ford: No. The only thing was to get any kind of Job that 

would pay my living expenses and then write In the time 
I had left. But there were no jobs [writing] . Oh, 
I did later on. For Instance, I was on the staff of 
Associated Advertising, which was the organ of the 
Associated Advertising Clubs of the world. 

Then later, In Baltimore, I edited a house organ 
for an olive oil company; I suppose that's a vague 
connection with writing. For a while, In Boston, I 
did public relations work for two or three organizations. 

So it's hard to say. I'd always prefer something 
where I could do some writing, but If worse came to 
worst, I'd work for anybody - I've worked for a fire 
hydrant company, a lumber company and a piano company 
here in San Francisco, for instance. In San Diego, 
during my first marriage, I was a public stenographer? 
In Los Angeles I doubled as secretary and assistant 
house organ editor for a big oil company. 

Gluck« It was primarily In a clerical sort of position? 

de Ford i I was sort of what they then called a stenographer 
ard what they now call a secretary. 

Gluckt But you didn't see going into the newspaper field as 
an alternative to being a writer? 

de Fords No, 1 didn't, largely because - you may think It 

peculiar - I was a very shy, timid person. The way I 
got jobs was having somebody tell me about them and 
recommend me. I never had the nerve — As a matter 
of fact, whenever I had to go to an interview, I 
always got violent diarrhea. I simply couldn't face 
people down, and I was always glad for a Job where I 
could be alone and do my work and not have people 
around me. 

Gluck: I see. How many women were there working in these 

places? Weren't they Just beginning to get into those 

de Fords Oh yes. By thac time, women worked in all the offices. 
As a matter of fact, It was getting close to the time 
when a man stenographer was unusual i unless he was a 
court reporter. I think on all the many, many Jobs I 
had, both substitute and permanent, I never saw a man 


de Ford: In the office except as the boss. Oh yes. The book 
keepers used to be men usually. 

Glucki I see. Were you ever involved in that Bookkeepers 
and Stenographers Union? 

de Ford: I never took bookkeeping - not with my attitude toward 

arithmetic I All I studied was typewriting and shorthand. 

Soapboxlng for Suffrage 

Gluck: Did you become involved in radical politics at this 

de Ford t No, I never was until my first marriage » until I met 
the man who was my first husband. Well, in a sense, 
I suppose you'd say I was always open to that kind 
of thing. By that time, I was soapboxlng for suffrage 
around Boston. 


Tell me about that. 

de Ford: In the evening we'd stand on a soapbox on the comer 
and talk. 

Gluck: What year was that? 

de Ford: Let's see — I lived In Boston the second time from 1912 
to 1915» One thing I did. I became the official 
reporter for the Ford Hall Open Forum, and we had all 
kinds of speakers: That's the first time I ever did 
hear any radical speakers. 

Then we also had what we called the Town Meeting 
in which I was the clerk. There (it was an imitation of 
a New England Town Meeting) people would bring up all 
kinds of "bills" and we would argue and discuss them 
and that sort of thing. 

When I finally met the man I married - he was a 
sort of combination of southern aristocrat and anarchist 
he converted me all the way over very quickly. 

Gluck i Was the suffrage activity connected with this Town 
Hall, or were you in a separate suffrage group? 


de Ford i It had nothing to do with the Town Hall Meetings. 
The Ford Hall Open Forum was a big public thing; 
hundreds and hundreds of people at the Sunday 
evening meetings, and very well known speakers always. 
The Town Hall was Just made up of regular tenants of 
Ford Hall, and we met In Its headquarters, I had 
a regular position to be - not as clerk of the Town 
Meeting but - as reporter for It. We got out a weekly — 
I don't know if you'd call it a paper — 

Gluckt A newsletter. 

de Ford: What I did was take down the speech in shorthand. 

Then we had all sorts of departments and I wrote in 
some of them. 

Gluck: I see. What was the suffrage group that you went out 
soapboxing for? 

de Fordi It was the Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Society. I 
lived in Boston in what was called a "home for self 
supporting women," The Hemenway, in a verv bad . 
part of the city - worse even than this [meaning the 
San Francisco Tenderloin], The College Settlement was 
right across the street from us. We had two old 
four-story houses thrown Into one. For a very small 
fee, we got a room - usually with a roommate, but I 
was nearly always alone - and breakfast and dinner. 

The head of it was a lady named Bertha Hazard who 
was from Alabama r but had lived many years In Boston 
and was a very active suffragist. She was a graduate 
of Vassar. It was probably through her that I 
became connected with the suffrage workers. Every 
state and every large city had a suffrage league. 
Maude Wood Park, I know, was the head in Boston, but 
it's too long ago.* 

Gluck: Did many of the girls livina in this olace become involved? 
de Ford: No, I think I was the only one. Oh, there may have 

*Maude Wood Park was associated with the National 
American Women's Suffrage Association and after the 
ratification of the Nineteenth Amendement and the 
formation of the League of Women Voters, became 
president of the L.W.V. 


de Ford: been one or two social workers who were more or less 
interested. But nearly all the girls were devout 
Roman Catholics and their whole outside interest was 
in the church. Boston, you know, is a highly Irish 
city. Most of the Hemenway residents were factory 
workers; a few were office workers. I was the only one, 
I'm sure, that took any active part. 

Gluck: Did this suffrage group have regular meetings? 

de Ford» I don't remember any meetings; they must have had. 
They got out all kinds of literature and they had 
these evenings — In those days, every evening in every 
city, the downtown street corners were all occupied 
by soapboxes - literally sometimes; sometimes we just 
called them that and they were little platforms with a 

Later on, in Spokane and in Los Angeles when I 
was speaking there for some of the radical martyrs and 
victims, I can remember there *d be a religious meeting 
at the other side, and I'd get up and yell, "You people 
that are listening to fellow-worker Jesus, come over 
and hear something about the real workers' movement." 

Gluck: What kind of experiences did you have when you were 
soapboxing for suffrage? 

de Ford: We always passed out petitions; there was always some 
bill in the Legislature. When we went over them later 
we would find all sorts of facetious phony names. 
But we always got a certain number of actual voters — 
all men, of course. 

Gluck: How would you go about starting this meeting exactly? 
de Ford: You mean how would you start it? 
Gluck: Yes. 

de Ford: There was usually somebody from headquarters who would 
get up and make an opening talk, in the manner of the 
soapboxing for socialism all over the Pacific Coast. 
Then, whoever it was would Introduce the speaker. You 
would know you were going to speak that night and 
you'd have some kind of subject to talk about besides 
the general one. You'd talk for maybe fifteen or 
twenty minutes and then you'd ask for questions and 


de Ford: try to answer them. 

Gluck: How large a group did you usually have gathering? 

de Ford: Just people going along the street. I suppose there 
were people who spent every evening going from one 
place to another, Just like Hyde Park in London. 

Gluck: Was it primarily men who would be your observers and 

de Ford i I don't know — 

Gluck: Were they couples, or Just men in your audience? 

de Ford: You mean in the audience? They were Just the same 

kind of people you'd find if you had an auto accident 

on the corner. People were going by and they stopped 

to listen i if they were interested they stayed, if they 

weren't they left. Some of them went from one to 

another Just to spend an evening listening to conversation. 

Gluck: Were the women harrassed? 

de Ford: No, we never had any actual - that I can remember - 
any physical violence. Of course, we got Jeers and 
cat calls; in those days, you didn't use four-letter 
words, so nobody called us thirteen-letter words or 
anything like that. But we'd be Interrupted, of 
course, and heckled. But that was part of it. 
You expected that and learned how to handle it. 

Gluck: Were there women soapbbxing on other Issues or only 

de Ford: I don't remember. By the time I was soapboxing out 

West, there were other women, yes. But in those early 
days, I don't remember if there were any. I think most 
of the other soapboxers - except for the ones on some 
special issue that might be coming up about housing 
or something, were religious. They were missionaries 
of one kind or another; they were either promoting the 
Bible or criticizing it. 

Gluck: How did they, the religious people, respond to you, to 
the suffrage women? 

de Ford: They didn't pay any attention. We all had our own 
audiences. Of course, we preferred to have a 
larger audience than anybody else, but you couldn't 


de Ford: 
Gluck i 
de Ford: 

de Ford: 

Gluck : 
de Ford: 

Gluck : 
de Fordi 

hold them If they wanted to goj you had to keep them 
entertained. [ Lau S nter 3 

So each of you would take a turn soapboxlng, then? 
Is that it? 

As I remember. Oh, they would say, "What evenings do 
you have free next week?" or something like that, 
and make a schedule for the week. I'd usually speak 
once or twice a week. 

This went on every evening, then — someone spoke? 

Yes. They had volunteers to speak. A great many 
peopj.e didn't like to speak in public, especially to 
this shifting audience of strangers on the street. 

Then did you hand out literature afterwards? 

Then somebody else from headquarters would be passing 
things around. 

Did you talk only about suffrage, or did you talk about 
feminism generally? 

I think it was mostly about suffrage. Of course, we 
also talked about the right of a woman to have control 
of her own earnings. Those were the days when the 
married woman who worked — her husband could take ail 
her money. He decided where they should live, and 
if they separated he got the children. A lot of women 
stayed in very unhappy marriages because they didn't 
want to lose their children. 

I suppose we talked about the peripheral subjects, 
but It was primarily that the way to help women was to 
give them the vote so they could be citizens, too. 

I knew from my own experiences how my brother 
felt » From the time he was twenty-one until he died 
at seventy in Washington, B.C. (they didn't get the 
vote until after he was dead) around election time, 
when he'd write me, he'd always start his letter, 
"Dear Citizen « " 

I never voted until I came to San Diego, In 1915* 
The whole country didn't have suffrage yet, but 
California did. I voted first In 1916 in Los Angeles. 


You stayed in Boston until 1915 then? 


de Ford: Yes. My fiance went to San Diego. When he got a 

house, he let me know and I went out from Boston to 
San Diego in February, 1915. 

Glucki But then after the soapboxing experiences in Boston, 
that was really the end of your specific suffrage 

de Ford: Well, I also soapboxed in Spokane, Washington, in 

1917, but not for suffrage. I think that's the last 
time I've spoken on the street. 


Gluck: Now that was for Mooney though, wasn't it? 

de Ford: Yes, and for other "labor martyrs." I think the whole 
idea of soapboxing had died down by then. I've never 
heard of it in recent years. 

Gluck: So that was sort of the end of your suffrage activities? 
de Ford: Women got the vote soon after that. 

Transition: Relationship and Attitude Towards Men 

Gluck i 

You met your first husband in Boston? 

de Ford: I met him in Boston, though he came from Memphis. 

Gluck: And he was Involved in some of the anarchist circles? 


de Ford: I never knew any socialists until several years later; 
most of the people I met through him were anarchists, 
what they called "philosophical anarchists. " 

When I met him in 191^ » I was secretary to the 
secretary of a very well-known lecturer. She 
(the lecturer's secretary) became a very good friend of 
mine. I met him through her. 

There was a rival to the Ford Hall called, not 
the School or Social Science but something like that, 
and that was where they did get all kinds of 
radical audiences. Mabel used to go to it occasionally 

and she met him there. 


de Ford 

de Ford: I remember the first time she mentioned him. 

She said, "Did you ever meet that anarchist that gets 
up and talks?" I said, "No, I don't want to meet him; 
if you have a normal man for me to meet, I'll be glad 
to meet him. " [Laughter] That was the beginning of 
my first marriage. 

What was your attitude towards men at this time; you'd 
had your earlier experiences. 

I remember saying to my father, when I was down on a 
holiday In Philadelphia, when I was living In Boston, 
"Thank goodness, I never see a man in Boston except 
the Janitor." My father was horrified, I suppose. 
He was afraid I was turning into a Lesbian! I wasn't. 
I was simply uninterested. ['.Daughter] 

Gluck: Did he mention it in those terms? 

de Ford: Oh no, of course not. Good Lord, no. He'd have died 
before he'd have said a word like that. [Laughter] 

Gluck: Wasn't it very unusual in those days to even talk about 
something like that? 

de Ford: I don't remember ever discussing sex with anybody. 

My mother was extremely Victorian, very prudish, even 
though she was an M.D., and considered herself very 
liberal. I knew, from reading the medical books, about 
menstruation and all that kind of thing; she never 
mentioned It to me. I think she said once In a shame 
faced sort of way when I was obviously developing, 
"You know what's going to happen, don't you?" I said 
hastily, "Oh certainly." She said, "That's goodi 
I don't have to say anything." Then she handed me 
some birds-eye cloth napkins to hemi they used that 
instead of Kotex In those days. 

Gluck: What was it? 

de Ford: They called it birds-eye; it was a thick, heavy thing 
like a diaper, and they all had to be hemmed by hand 
and washed by hand. 

Gluck: Even as a gynecologist, this wasn't something she would 
discuss with her women patients? 

de Ford: Well, I suppose she did with her patients - she had to. 
If she had somebody with cancer of the cervix, she'd 
certainly have to tell her so. But at home and in 
private life, she wouldn't think of mentioning anything 
like that. 


de Ford: I can remember once. I had a bad habit In my 

childhood. I couldn't get to sleep at night and I had 
a terrible time waking up in the morning » I was always 
late. But I used to sneak out of bed and listen In 
from the top of the stairs. My father would have 
evening calls and then he'd come home maybe about ten 
or half past. I had a firm belief in my childhood that 
the ?rtiole world changed at ten o'clock} it was the 
grown ups world and it was a completely different 
place. I was very eager to know what It was like. 

I would get out and sit at the top of the stairs 
where I could hear my father and mother talking downstairs. 
I remember once - I can't remember what it was - my 
father must have told my mother a slightly dirty 
story. She laughed a little and said, "Oh, you 
shouldn't have told me that one." [Laughter] 

Glucki Up until the time you met your husband, you still 
didn't have much use for men? 

de Ford: I Just didn't know any then. Oh I did. Yes, through 
Ford Hall, but that was all shortly before I met 
Armistead Collier. I'd known some of my classmates in 
Temple, of course. Two of them used to call on mei 
one was a divinity student. I used to entertain him 
by writing sonnets with him! I was in love with one of 
my married professors, but of course he never knew it. 
Two of the men from Ford Hall fell in love with me, 
but I didn't even know it till Mabel told me. One 
asked me to marry him and I just laughed. 

I remember that summer, we had what they called 
the Sagamore Sociological Conference on the seashore 
near Boston. I was there, of course, because It was 
run by Ford Hall. I think it lasted about a week. 
We'd have talks every day and concerts - the first 
time Roland Hayes, the famous Negro tenor, ever sang 
in public. 

There was a young Unitarian minister whose name 
I've completely forgotten; it was a three-barrel 
name, George something. He was kind of taken with me. 
A group of us were at the beach. 

I can't remember what had happened, but there was 
something we had to get from some house nearby and he 
went with me to help carry It. When we got inside the 

de Ford: house, he kissed me and I slapped his face. That 

was my first kiss from any man except my father, and 
I was twenty-four! He said, "Why did you do that? 
That Isn't a way to treat a man." I said, "You 
ought to be ashamed of yourself," and he said, "Why? 
If I like you." I said, "Why, you're a minister." 


(Second Interview, August 23, 1973) 

Feminism. Old and New 

[The following portion of the Interview began with an 
untranscribed discussion on birth control.] 

de Pordi You see, the whole suffrage movement after Its earliest 
days was divided into two camps, a conservative camp 
and a liberal camp. And as far as I know, the very 
conservative suffragists were interested in nothing 
else. They weren't feminists really. I mean, they 
didn't care much about working conditions or birth 
control or anything of that sort? they were Just after 
the vote. 

I should say that the liberal camp was more or less 
favorable at least [to the birth control movement]], but 
nobody active or prominent in the woman's suffrage 
movement ever endorsed abortion or anything of that 
sort. That would have been fatal. Even if they 
believed in it personally, they wouldn't do a thing in 
it . It would have ruined the whole movement , besides 

Gluck: Of the women that you know that you referred to this 

abortionist, did any of them have harmful after effects? 

de Ford: You mean people who did it themselves? 

Gluck : No, of the women that you referred to this man you 
knew here in San Francisco. 

de Ford i Well, I don't know, because the word seemed to get 

around that I knew somebody, and people that I didn't 


de Ford: know would come around and ask me for the address 

and I'd never hear from them again. But, nobody who 
was very close to me — they were people I just knew 
casually. But as far as I knew, they were all alive 
and kicking afterwards. This man was a regular doctor 
and he was a good one. I don't know whether — He 
did charge fifty dollars, as I said, which was an 
enormous price in those days, but he — So he wasn't 
doing it out of — 

Gluck: Good will. 

de Ford: — love for human -kind or anything. But he was reliable. 
He was at least scientific and sanitary, which Is more 
than most of them were. 

Gluck i One of the interesting things that I've been coming 

across is the number of women in your age range who've 
had hysterectomies, some of which seem to have been 
related to very botched up abortions. 

de Ford: Well, I'd never heard that before. 

Gluck: You yourself never had a hysterectomy? 

de Ford: No, I never had to. 

Gluck: Because it seems it was fairly common in those days. 

de Ford: Oh, I wouldn't wonder. In later years, in the late 
1920s, I knew a woman who'd had seven abortions, and 
one of them a seventh month, which is frightful. She 
was, as far as I could see, healthy and active, young- 
looking. She'd had her first one, I think, when she 
was sixteen. But she didn't bother with any kind 
of birth control. When she got pregnant she went 
and had an abortion. 

Gluck: I can think of better ways. 

de Ford: Well, I can too. She finally decided in one of her 
marriages - she married several times - to have a 
child; she had it, and the child was bom dead and 
she blamed the doctor. So after that she refused to 
have any more. 

Gluck: Going back to the split in the feminist movement between 
the more conservative and the more radical, did the more 
radical group use the word "feminism," do you know? 


de Ford: Well, to begin with, they were not a radical group; 
they were liberal. They were only left as compared 
with the extreme right. And don't ask me to name any 
names because I don't remember who was the head of 
which. But, no, I would — Well, yes, I have known 
women all my life who were life- long feminists. For 
Instance, Congressman [William] Kent *s widow 
[an active suffragist], who gave Mulr Woods to the 
country, was an oldtlme feminist from way back. 

I remember going up to her house and making a 
speech once to a little group of oldtlme feminists. 

Gluck: When was that? 

de Ford: Let's see, that was about — It was the day our house 
caught on fire. I think it was about 1929 or '30. 

Gluck: And most of them have still identified as feminists? 

de Ford: Oh yes, and an old lady ninety-three years old drove 
me back and told me about her fight for feminism back 
seventy years before. 

But let's say they were extremely few. 

Gluck s And they would use the word "feminism" to identify 

de Ford: Oh yes, absolutely. But there were a great many people 
who were suffragists who were not interested, or at 
least not talking, about anything else. The oldtime 
feminists go way back - keep on going back to the 
18^-Os. And usually they believed in a lot of other 
things that the more respectable didn't - like free 
love, for example. And a good many of them were 
actually anarchists. Of course, Emma Goldman lectured 
regularly on birth control. Margaret Sanger was an 
anarchist in her early days. 

Gluck: Now, I'm very Interested in someone like yourself, 

who was a feminist and lived through all that and who 
remained a feminist all your life. What do you think 
happened? After the vote, why did things get so much 
worse for women? 

de Fordi Well, one reason waa that women expected too much from 
the vote. You know, politics was going to be purified 


de Ford: and everything was going to be lovely as soon as women 
got the vote - which was pure nonsense! My argument 
always was that we* re human beings and citizens, and 
we have a right to the vote. I never expected to see — 
I never thought that women legislators would be any less 
corruptible than men [laughter] , because we're all 
human together, and we have all kinds. But I think 
that is one or the chief reasons, that a good many 
people who had worked hard for suffrage gave up in 
disgust and despair when they found that they weren't 
entering into an elyslum. 

Then of course, we've had two world wars since 
then and two private wars. During World War I was 
the time that "Rosie the Riveter" appeared. I Imagine 
a great many of those people who had never been interested 
in anything except their own private lives, when at the 
end of a war they'd be turned out summarily and a man 
would get their job, I imagine a good many of them 
began to think about women as women. But I don't 
know that I have any definitive answer at all to why, 
except that you know how people arei they get tired, 
they get bored, and then they get out. 

Gluck: Why do you think that among the more liberal, the ones 
who Identified as feminists and not Just suffragists 
because these had a much broader ideological — 

de Ford: Well, I think in the minds of a great many people who 
were, who would have called themselves liberal, 
feminism was a fighting word. It belonged too far to 
the left. They weren't radicals politically. And it 
was the political radicals who were also feminists. 
I think that's probably the fundamental reason. A 
great many people who wanted the vote didn't want 
anything else, and when they got the vote they were 

Gluck: But for Instance, these feminists that you Trent to 

speak to. After the vote, what did they do? Did they 
still fight for — ? 

de Foru: They were all very old people and they weren't doing 
much of anything. I don't think there were more than 
half a dozen at that meeting. But occasionally I can 
remember at my husband's [Maynard Shipley's] lectures 
there used to be an old lady who came up from Palo 
Alto (and I don't remember her name) who had been a 


de Ford: lifetime feminist} in the question period she always 
managed, no matter what the scientific subject - 
astronomy or anything, to get it around somehow to 
women . 

Until the new modern women's lib movement, you 
never heard the word feminism. I don't think most 
people would have understood what it was. And then I 
think one thing is, that as the more permissive era 
arrived, too many of the older women who had thought of 
themselves as being pretty liberal, began worrying for 
fear that only lesbians were — [laughter"]. Oh yes, 
I think that has a great deal to "do with it. I think 
a great many people scuttled out in a hurry in a fear 
that they might be considered lesbians. 

Gluck: And that would be in the twenties? 

de Ford: Oh, not in the twenties. Later than that. No, in the 
twenties, unless you read French, you hardly knew what 
a lesbian was, or unless you read Sappho in Greek. I 
remenber my Latin professor In college Introducing me to 
the novels of Pierre Louys in French; a novel called 
"Aphrodite," about Greek lesbians. That was the 
first I ever heard of them. 

No, the very first I heard was on my first [news] 
paper, where a woman in the advertising department was 
called by everybody "Brother." I never could understand 
why. She asked to use our office phone to call up 
her girlfriend, and she'd say, "Darling, did you like 
the ring?" [Laughter] She lived right around the 
corner from me and invited me over. She was the person 
who taught me to smoke when I was eighteen. The funny 
thing was that when I first moved out here in 1918, to 
my immense astonishment, I met her on the streets she c d 
moved out here too. She was living with some woman on 
Lake Street, but I never saw her again. 

Gluck: Well, when was this period when you're saying that the 
women who would still identify themselves as feminists 
were afraid of the lesbian — 

de Ford: Well, I think that's a — I should say that was Just 
before the women's lib movement started, the 
most recent movement . 

I went out to a NOW affair [National Organization 
for Woraonj In the courtyard of the Plrat Unitarian 

de Ford: Church about three years ago. There were all kinds of 
stands, you know, with literature and things. There 
was one girl who had made elaborate printed poems, 
big plaques printed by hand. And I'd never seen anything 
quite so vicious as one of them she had posted up 
there - very anti-man. They were these horrible 
creatures all women should avoid. So I went up to 
her and I said — I may have told you this before — 

Gluck : No . 

de Ford: I went up to her and I said, "Look, we don't hate all 
men. We hate male chauvinist pigs." She said, 
"They're all male chauvinist pigs." 

So, I think there were too many respectable middle- 
aged women who had always thought of themselves as 
feminists, but when they got that kind of thing they 
got scared and beat It . 

Gluck i Was the anti-man stand as strong In the early feminist 
movement, do you think? 

de Fordt I think that's a question of the individual. There 

were women like that. But after all, most of the really 
early leading feminists in this country were married, 
and often their husbands were very strong for women 
and were their associates. People like Alice Stone 
Blackwell or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

Gluck » For instance, when you were in Boston and were Involved 
with that suffrage group, do you recall — ? 

de Ford« No, the suffrage movement in Boston was very mild 

and very conservative. Mrs. Park couldn't have been 
more respectable and more conservative. She was a 
sweet little woman. She'd been married six months 
when her husband died, and she wore mourning for him 
the rest of her life. So you can see. It sounds very 
radical to get out on a soapbox and stand on a 
street comer, but everybody did it. I mean quite 
conservative political candidates would; that was the 
day of the soapbox. Every evening when you went downtown 
every corner was occupied. 

Gluoki Now, In that group would other women besides yourself 
talk about feminist lsou«s, or was it only surf rage? 

de Ford: They never talked about anything except "What's a good 

corner?" and "Who -will circulate the petitions tonight?" 
I never knew any of them personally. I Just went down 
and offered my services and I had had some experience 
in public speaking, so they took me on. 

Miss Bertha Hazard, who was the head of our Home 
for Self-Supporting Women, Hemenway, was one of the 
(conservative) women's suffrage people, though she 
came from Alabama; that was unusual in those days. 
The South was very, very reactionary. Though I think 
she was the one that first suggested that I offer my 
services to speak in the evenings. She, herself, 
would never have dreamed of doing it. I don't think 
she even marched in a parade. She was very much a 
lady. She did once try to register to vote as a 
demonstration . 

That was one of the things they did, you know. 
Different women would go down when it was time to register 
and try to register and be turned down and get some 
publicity for the cause over there. 

Glucki Had you done that ever? 

de Ford: I never did, no. For one thing, when I first started 
I was a minor. And then I got into some of the other 
things. I don't think I lived long enough in Massa 
chusetts to be registered, for one thing. 

As I said, I first voted when I came out to San 
Diego because California then had the vote. It was 
before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. 

That was one of the things the girls who interviewed 
from KQED couldn't understand. They wanted to know if 
everybody voted when I first voted in 1916. They 
didn't know that Wyoming was the first state to have 
women suffrage and they wanted to know why. I told 
them women were precious and valuable as pioneers, at 
least. [Laughter] Of course, they [the younger women] 
hardly can think of us as human beings. They're always 
surprised when they find something happened before they 
were thought of. [Laughter] 

Gluck: Do you recall when you first would have used the word 
"feminist," as opposed to "suffragist?" 

de Ford i I couldn't tell you. It's too far back. I have no idea. 

de Ford: Probably I found it in my voluminous reading on the 

subject. I remember in my grandmother's house there was 
a book translated from the French by Michelet, who was 
a well known historian of the nlnteenth century, and 
I think it was called Woman. I can remember some of 
the things in it still, the patronizing tone — you 
know, "Woman is the lesser man," and "All thy passions 
matched with mine/Are as moonlight unto sunlight and as 
water unto wine." [Tennyson t "Locksley Hall"] That was 
the general feeling". I can remember he talked about 
being kind to your wife because she's at your mercy - 
you can make her pregnant. Most people thought of 
pregnancy as a disease that some people recovered 

Many women died in childbirth. In those days half 
the children died in infancy. My grandmother was one 
of fifteen, all of whom - remarkably - grew upj and 
all but one of whom were married and had children. My 
mother had one hundred first cousins. 

Gluckt One hundred! 

de Fords One hundred exactly, because her father was one of 
eight, and they too all married and had children. 
But on the other hand, my grandmother herself had 
eight children, of whom only five grew up. Three 
died as small children. And that was the common 

You'd meet a woman and say, "How many children 
do you have, and she'd tell you," and then you'd say, 
"How many times did you have a child," and it would be 
maybe twice that number. 

Gluck: Was your sister also a feminist? 

de Ford: Well, not actively, but she was certainly — she was 
very active in her union. She was a supervisor of 
Industrial Art in the Philadelphia public schools, and 
she was for years secretary of her local union . She 
served in France during World War I as what they called 
a "reconstruction aide," teaching new crafts to 
soldiers who had been wounded or something and who 
couldn't go on with their former work. (She came 
back from France engaged to a medical officer but 
the engagement was broken and she never married.) 
And she always had the right attitude. But I don^t 
think she ever did anything very active. She never 
worked in the suffrage movement or anything like that. 

de Ford: Of course, she was two years younger than I and she 
was still quite young when the Nineteenth Amendment 
was passed. 

Gluck: But for instance, when your mother sent you down to 
suffrage headquarters, she never sent — 

de Ford: I don't think anybody ever suggested that Alice do 

anything she didn't want to do! If she had asked, I 
think they'd have been glad to have her, but she was 
very busy with other things. She was always the 
aggreslve person in our family, and I was the timid 
one that hung back and had to be pushed into things. 

Gluck i 
de Ford: 
Gluck : Yes . 
de Fordt 

How do you feel about the current women's movement? 
You mean the so-called women's lib movement? 

Well, I certainly don't like some of the more extreme 
manifestations. I mean, they seem foolish. The 
ostentatious anti-man business and some of the demon 
strations seem to me to be a trifle exaggerated, but 
I'm all for it, naturally. In fact, I'm a member of 
NOW j have been from the beginning. 

Gluck i Do you see it as being very different from the movement 
of the nlneteen-teens? 

de Ford: I thJnk it's very different. To begin with, it has a 
much better background atmosphere. People are much 
more receptive than they used to be. It used to be Just 
a grinding fight and male chauvinism was practically 
unlvarsal. In fact, there was even a lot of female 
chauvinism. "I'm perfectly happy, and Nora didn't 
bang the door," and all that. [Laughter] 

I don't think there's much doubt that this is a 
much more permissive age and people talk about things 
that they never used to talk about. 

I said to a young man the other day who was giving 
me his very, very adolescent opinions on things, "You 
people think you Invented sex. We did all the things 
you talk about. We just didn't talk about them." 

Gluck « Do you think that the current women's movement has a 
more political — ? 

de Ford: I think It has a lunatic fringe, as every movement 
has. But on the whole I think It's a good, solid, 
useful movement and I certainly hope It's not going 
to attenuate or die out. I'm always afraid that with 
every movement you get that first enthusiasm, and 
then you accomplish a few things and then you get 
tired. That's true of every political movement. 

Gluck: Do you think that the current movement Is more political 
generally than the earlier one? 

de Ford i Oh, much more, yes, because there are many more oppor 
tunities to be. What could we do? All we could do 
was talk. But they can actually form political blocs 
and Influence elections and all that sort of thing, 
while we were powerless. 

Gluck: What happened to feminists after the early, movement 

died? Did you feel an extreme kind of Isolation, for 

de Ford: Well, I don't know what you mean by the early movement. 
The sarly movement was back In 1845 and I wouldn't know. 

Gluck: I guess I view that as part of a continuous one, 

de Ford: I suppose In Individual Instances that have come to 

my attention, I would feel that we have been let down, 
but I don't remember any particular — I always realize 
that there's a great deal still to be done and that 
we had to keep on doing It. 

I still don't know why this sudden recrudescence 
In recent years. I mean there was no one event, 
unless It was the fact of the two big wars and that 
women for the first time did things they had never 
done before and didn't want to give them up, 

Gluck: Well, I also do think the involvement of women in 

radical politics and discovering that they were being 
treated rather poorly had a great deal of — 

de Ford: As far as I know, every political radical I've ever 

heard of, no matter what he was — Socialist, Anarchist, 
Communist, or anything — has always taken feminism 
for granted. I don't think there's ever been any 
sex discrimination in any such movement. 

Gluck: But do you think that their feminism In reality was — 

de Ford: I don't think it was the most important thing to them, 
but if you'd asked them, they would have always said, 
"Yes, they agree." But very few of them would do 
anything in that particular line because they had 
plenty of other things that they were fighting about. 

Clucks But within the movements, how did they treat the women, 
for instance? 

de Ford: That varies according to the situation. I mean, I've 
known — well, some of these communes now, you know 
the girls apparently end up in the kitchen. And that 
would be true of — Well, there's always a tendency in 
any group that if there's domestic work to be done, the 
woman do It. If you'd call It to their attention, then 
they'd be embarrassed and they'd wash the dishes. 

But in general, the idea is that women's work is 
never done and it was subservient to men's work which 
is important. 

Gluck: Do you think that the women themselves in the radical 
movements in the early days accepted that idea too? 

de Fords You can't answer that yes or no. Some of them did and 
some of them didn't. Some of them flatly refused to 
be relegated to the sidelines. And then of course, you 
must remember people like Emma Goldman, for instance, 
who were leaders in their particular group. I can't 
imagine Emma's retiring from public life to wash the 
dishes. If I'd been a man, I don't think I would have 
wanted to marry Emma. She was a very aggressive person. 
And as far as I knew, both [Ben] Reitman and [Alexander] 
Berkman, knuckled under and did as they were told. They 
were very respectful. 

Fern in 1st as Writer; Writer as Feminist 

Gluck: Do you feel, from what we talked about last time and 

from the things that you're saying now, that very young 
you were aware of what it meant to be a woman. How 
do you think this affected your writing throughout 
your life? 

de Ford: Well, the only thing I can say is — the KQED people 

de Pord: made me read to them an excerpt from one of the stories 
In my collection, "Xenogenesis, " which is all science 
fiction about matrimony, reproduction and sex on other 
planets and in the future. And I should say that every 
one cf those stories is oriented towards feminism. I 
read them also from my introduction, in which I said 
that in the early days women never appeared in science 
fiction except as somebody to be captured by a bug- 
eyed monster and rescued or something of that sortj 
they were passive and acquiescent. 

But the particular one there they had me read 
from was called "Superior Sexed" and it was distinctly 
a feminist story. 

But except for that and the fact that, through my 
mystery stories, Just as often I have the woman an 
active criminal or murderer as a man, I've not dealt 
specifically with feminism In my fiction. I've never 
written the kind of thing that would particularly need 
to take an attitude one way or the other or even to 
consider it. 

I did at one time ask a publisher's representative 
whom I knew here about doing a book on the subject. 
It was about the time that women's lib began. I 
think it was at the time Betty Priedan's book came 
out . I had an Idea for a book and he was very much 
interested in it, but New York finally said "No, they 
didn't think there was enough Interest." Afterwards 
there was a terrible flood of such books, and I was 
busy doing other things, so I Just dropped it. 

I've written a number of magazine articles, mostly 
for magazines now extinct, like Scribner's, on subjects 
dealing more or less with feminism. I had one in some 
farm journal in the Middle West on "Do Women Want 
Children?," in which I said that there was no such 
thing as the maternal instinct. And I remember having 
one in some magazine now defunct, whose name I've 
forgotten, called "Half Past Sex O'clock." I've always 
written — where there was an occasion to mention it 
at all — from that viewpoint. But I never wrote 
particularly on it. 

I got very early involved in political and economic 
subjects. I was a labor Journalist for thirty-five 
years . 

de Ford: 

de Ford: 

Gluck : 
de Ford: 

Gluck : 
de Ford: 

Gluck : 
de Ford: 

But your early poetry, for instance, did any of that 
ever deal with how you felt about being a woman? 

Yes, well, that's another thing they [a KQED crew 
doing a program on suffragists] had me read: two of 
my very early poems. One of the girls said, "Is 
that one of your best poems?" I said, "No, it's one of 
my worst ones, but that's the subject that you wanted." 
I've written very little, but I have a few feminist 
poems, yes. 

Of your very early ones? 

Yes, very early ones. Actually, if you want them, 1*11 
be glad to copy them for you, but they're not particularly 
good poems. One of them was published and I think one 
of them wasn't. There were only two I could remember 
from — 

When were those published? 

Oh, this would have been back in the teens, 
remember exactly. Some time before 1915* 

I don't 

Well, I think it would be interesting if we ever do a 
transcript to show that as a very early work where 
that ~ 

Well, I can almost date one or two of those things. 
One I think was called "Woman to Man" and the other one 
I think was about Medea. Making Medea into a heroine 
is quite a job! [Laughter] I was surprised wnen I 
came across that." 

So actually there has been a thread from your very early 
writing up to now in terms of — 

Well, I can't remember. I think I told you, and I 
certainly told them, that I became a feminist at the 
age of six, and ever since then, I was always on the 
side of the girl against the boy. 


(in The Voman Voter, around 1912) 

We are they that wept at Babylon, 

And still are they that weepi 

We have watched the cradles of the world, 

And hushed its sick to sleep; 

We have served your folly and desire, 

And drunk your cruel willi 

You have smiled on us with far contempt — 

Are you smiling still? 

We are slaves most fit for Solomon 

Who now can call you kin; 

It was strength of heart and many years 

That changed us so within — 

The strength of those you killed with scron, 

The years you could not kill: 

Steep were the stairs to climb, and hard — 

Are you smiling still? 

We have shared your salt of loyalty 

And eaten of its bread? 

We have died with you for freedom's sake, 

And gained it — being deadt 

You have drawn from out our breasts your life, 

That life you use so 111: 

We are they that bore you in the night — 

Are you smiling still? 

Miriam Allen de Ford 


INDEX - Miriam Allen deFord 

abortion, 35-36 
anarchists, 31-32, 37 

career expectations of, 7-8, 20 
marriage and, 21-22 


anarchism and, 37, 44 

development of personal beliefs, 4, 7 

lesbianism and, 39 

man-hating and, 40, 43 

of mother, 5 

radicalism and, 38 

suffrage and, 36, 37 
Ford Hall Open Forum, 26, 27, 33 

Goldman, Emma, 37, 45 

Journalism. See Philadelphia North American, 

lesbianism, 32, 39 

marriage, attitudes toward, 21-22 
Massachusetts Suffrage Society, 27 
men, attitudes toward, 4, 40, 43, 47 

National Organization for Women (NOW), 39, 42 

Park, Maude Wood, 27, 40 

Philadelphia North American, 14, 18, 21, 23, 24 

sex, attitudes toward, 8, 32 
Temple University, 17, 22 


Wellesley, 17-18, 19, 21-22 

woman's suffrage: 

arguments for, 30, 37-38 

attitude of father toward, 3, 11 

attitude of mother toward, 3, 5, 9 

birth control and, 35 

conservative vs. liberals in, 35, 37 

organizing activities, 26, 28-30, 40 

parades, 10-12 

women : 

in medicine, 6-7 
moral superiority of, 37-38 
treatment of, 4-5, 7, 43, 45 
wages of, 19, 21 

women's liberation movement, 43-44 

Feminist History Research Project Regional Oral History Office 

P.O. Box 1156 486 The Bancroft Library 

Topanga, California 90290 University of California, Berkeley 

Suffragists Oral History Project 

Laura Ellsworth Seiler 

An Interview Conducted by 
Sherna Gluck 

1975 by The Regents of the University of California and 
The Feminist History Research Project 

Laura Ellsworth Seller 

TABLE OF CONTENTS - Laura Ellsworth Seller 

Interview History 
Biographical Data 




The Debate Debacle 13 



Appealing to the Men 18 

Organizing the Women 19 



The Structure of The Women's Political Union 22 

Relationship Between Suffrage Groups 24 

Tactics: From "Doxology" to Motorboats 29 

Personalities and Politics 36 


Interruption: Family Life 39 

Combining Career and Motherhood 40 

Maintaining the Suffrage Ties 44 

In and Out of Retirement 47 

Retirement Life Style 48 






Laura Ellsworth Seller was introduced to The Feminist 
History Research Project through Jessie Haver Butler, another 
suffragist/interviewee. The two of them were active in the 
Claremont Women's Club, though their knowledge of each other 
actually dates back to their suffrage days. While a lobbyist 
for the Washington, D.C. Consumers League in 1918, Jessie Haver 
Butler was one of several young professionals who shared a 
communal house. One of the other women living in this house 
was a friend of Laura Seiler. When in 1961, Laura Seiler moved 
to California, she and Jessie Butler finally became acquainted. 

We taped the first interview in October 1973, shortly 
after Mrs. Seiler moved to Claremont Manor, a retirement facility 
in Claremont, California. She had just sold her cottage home at 
Mount San Antonio Gardens, because, after three years in a hos 
pital, it became obvious that her husband's incapacity would be 
permanent. A second interview, in June 1974, like the first, 
was recorded in her room at the Manor, a small complex of rather 
austere, brick buildings on pleasantly landscaped grounds. 

Though 82, Laura .Seiler appears to be twenty years younger. 
She is an attractive, rather proper and business-like woman who 
still maintains an active interest in general world affairs and 
in the current women's movement. Reflecting her own long-time 
career as an account executive in an advertising agency, she is 
especially interested in questions of vocational choices and 
opportunities for women. Her interest in and attitudes toward 
the women's movement represent quite a departure from the other 
inhabitants of her living community. Like many other suffragists, 
she represents an older woman whose understanding and support of 
the current movement is an obvious extension of her own life. 

Because of Laura Seller's own interest in the possible 
publication of material relating to her business life, it was 
agreed that the focus of the interviews would be primarily on her 
participation in the suffrage movement, with enough on her family 
background and career to understand both the continuities and 

discontinuities in feminist thought and activity. The first 
interview provided a broad outline of her life as well as some 
specific suffrage anecdotes. The second interview explored 
her childhood background in greater detail, her career, and 
the influences which shaped her suffrage commitment. However, 
since neither interview was discrete, it was necessary to com 
bine the two interviews in a manner which would provide for a 
more coherent development of the subjects discussed. After Mrs. 
Seiler looked over the edited transcript, we reviewed it together, 
making minor revisions. 

The difference between the spoken and the transcribed word 
is, perhaps, nowhere as evident among the interviews in this 
volume, as in the Laura Seiler interviews. As a trained and 
accomplished public speaker, her story-telling abilities are 
well honed. Her marvelous renditions of the accounts of the 
suffrage tour with her Victorian mother, the caper in New York 
harbor, and the speech from atop a horse on Wall Street, cannot 
be fully captured on paper. From the standpoint of the material 
itself, however, the Laura Seiler interviews add another dimension 
to the suffrage story — that of the bold and dramatic act, perhaps 
similar to the guerilla theater tactics used today. 

Sherna Gluck 

December 1974 


Personal Biography 

Born to Lucy Hawley Ellsworth and Charles B. Cook, October 31, 
1891, Buffalo, New York 

Marriages: Dale B. Carson, 1913-1928 

Erwin Vierling Seiler, 1929 

Children: Daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Ellsworth Gardner 


High School, Ithaca, New York, 1903-1907 

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 1909-1913, B.A. Modern 

Languages. Phi Beta Kappa 


1914-1915 Macy's Department Store, New York Copywriter 

1917-1948 Federal Advertising Agency, New York Copywriter, 
Account Executive, Vice-President and member of 
Board of Directors 

1948-1954 First retirement 

1954-1958 J. B. Rundle Inc., New York Account Executive 

1958- Retirement 

European travels; Move to California, 1961 


Vocational articles for various publications (while still 
in business) 


Seller « All of my ancestors, so far as I know, were In 

America before 1?00. So It's a straight New England 
background until the generation In which I was born. 
I always thought of my family as New Englanders In 
exile because It seemed to me they bore down more 
heavily on New England traditions than If they'd still 
been living In New England. 

I grew up In Ithaca, New York, In my grandfather's 
house, and went to Cornell University. I was the 
youngest of three children. My elder sister, who Is 
seven years older than I, and my brother, who was five 
years older, also went to Cornell. 

My father had been a Cornell man, and It was a 
family Joke with us that grandfather, who had had a 
period of retirement because of a breakdown In health, 
decided to settle and practice law again In Ithaca 
because they had Just opened a college and he had 
four daughters. So It was a family Joke that he moved 
to Ithaca — to marry them off. 

Glucki Did the daughters all attend Cornell? 

Seller: No, none of them. Two of them married Cornell men. 

One of them didn't marry - her sister having married 

the man she was In love with, an Ithaca man but not a 

Cluck: Okay, going back a bit -- you lived In your maternal 
grandfather's household. 

Seller: Yes, I grew up In his household, In Ithaca. 

Glucki What was the house like? Who lived In the house with 

Seller: It was a very large house. That w*s the day, of course, 

Seller: when you still had sleep-In servants. Wy grand 
father had been a Judge; he was always called Judge 
Ellsworth. I don't think he was anything very 
Important In the way of a Judge. He was still a 
practicing lawyer when we went to lite with him. 

The house had a large basement f one of these 
half-way ones. Down in the basement with the half 
windows was the dining room, a large pantry, a huge 
kitchen and what was always called the maid's sitting 
room because it was furnished so that they could have 
fun there. 

Then there was an enormous cellar beyond that. 
There was an outside entrance to the maid's sitting 
room so that their guests could come and go, and that's 
where deliveries were made too. 

The next floor had a big central hall* a music 
room, a library, front and back parlors, a very .targe 
bed-sitting room and bath for my grandfather and 
grandmother. On the other side, another bedroom with 
a room off it which was as big as the bedroom but was 
used for storage. 

Then, up on the next floor, there were one, two, 
three bedrooms and a bath in the front of the house, 
and what was then called the sewing room. Then, you 
went down a flight of steps to a door, and there were 
one or two rooms for servants (I've forgotten whether 
there were one or two), and a big storage room, out of 
which came the most peculiar things when we had to 
break up the house (among others, a straw frame for 
hoop skirts.) I don't think anything had been taken 
out of the room for twenty- five or thirty years. 

My grandfather was a Democrat, and a Democrat in 
upstate New York was an oddity. He didn't think much 
of the local papers, so he always had the Rochester 
Democrat and Chronicle sent to him. It was a family 
custom to gather round the table In grandfather's 
bedroom while grandfather read the things he considered 
Important that day. My older sister and brother sat 
in on those. I was too little. I knew that and never 

I may mention, however, my grandfather was what 
used to be called a "free thinker." He got his Phi 
Beta Kappa key back In 1835 when he was In Union Law 
School. In those days, Phi Beta Kappa was thought to 


Selleri be - was Intended to be - an organization of free 
thinkers. That's what Phi Beta Kappa means - 
"philosophy, the key of life." 

He never would go to church. We were Episco 
palians, and I can still remember my grandmother 
asking him to go and he, retorting with a grin, "No. 
I'm glad to pay for the pew, but you go and sit In 
It." [Laughter] 

Gluck: They didn't quite share those attitudes, then? 

Selleri No, no. He didn't go to church. All the rest of the 
family was very orthodox, I should say. But I do 
remember, and I think his attitude must have been 
somehow bred Into me as a background, although, I can't 
remember any long lectures on ethical subjects. 

It seems to me It was very early In my life that 
I realized you didn't Judge people by what they had 
but by what they were, which has always seemed very, 
very Important to me. I have an Idea that many of 
these things were, as It were, offshoots of my grand 
father's conversation and other things that went on In 
the house. 

Gluck i He was retired at the time the family was In the house? 

Seller: No. He was still a practicing lawyer. He retired when 
he was about eighty-one or eighty- two j he died when 
he was eighty-four. The last year or so, we had an 
old Civil War veteran who acted as companion to him, 
helped him around. 

Gluck! How old was he when you moved Into the house? 

Seller: Let me Just subtract. He was about seventy-four? he 
was still practicing. 

Gluck: And It was your mother, and the three children, and 
your grandmother, and grandfather? 

Seller: And a maiden aunt. 

Gluck: What was your grandmother like? Was she a very protected 
Victorian woman? 

Seller: Very, I would say. One of my earliest and most charming 


Gluck : 

Gluck : 

Gluck » 

recollections was when I was quite small. Theoretically, 
the door to my grandfather's bed-sitting room was 
always closed, and you knocked before you went In. But 
being small, I disregarded that and swung the door open 
and discovered my grandmother sitting on my grandfather's 
lap. I was so surprised. I'd never seen anything like 
that before In my life. [Laughter"! 

They never showed any sign of affection In front of the 

Not that I remember — certainly nothing like that. 
I remember that very well. 


I also remember they celebrated their golden wedding 
anniversary, and my eldest aunt came back from St. Louis 
where she lived, and that was very exciting. That was 
In 1899. My grandmother died very soon after that of 

So she died when you were still quite young, then? 

Yes, She died when I was about eight, and my grand 
father died when I was ten. 

What was your grandmother's life like? Was It very 
protected, or did she go out to club meetings? 

I don't remember anything like a club. They went out to 
receptions, as they were called In those days. And I 
also remember that they had perpetually going In the 
winter what was called duplicate whist. Do you know 
what that Is? It's very entertaining. 

They had boards Just big enough to hold four hands 
of cards under elastics. And they had a series of 
them — I don't know exactly how many — I would guess 
probably twenty. This went on all winter. As I recall, 
they had two tables always In the front parlor. And 
they played the boards all the way through, and kept 
track of their scores. 

The boards were shifted one to the right, so they 
went through again playing the hands their opponents 
had played, and then compared the scores at the end. 
That was called duplicate whist, and they did It all 
winter long. 

No, my grandmother was quite an attractive woman j 
rather small, and she led a quite normal social life. 
My grandfather didn't like very well having 

Seller: people asked to meals. I do remember that. It had 
to be arranged with him beforehand, and there were 
not very many people he liked to have Invited. 

Also, when people came to the house, they 
normally were calling on my grandmother, and aunt, 
and mother, so we entertained at the front. Only very 
occasionally were they taken back to my grandfather's 

Gluck: So he was somewhat of the remote patriarch. 

Seller: Somewhat, yes. 

Gluck: What was your mother's life like? 

Seller: She was mostly concerned, of course, with us. She was 
very 111 In the beginning, when we came home. I was 
only six months old and am just saying what I was 
told. I think, for a while, they weren't quite sure 
she was going to recover. But then, she grew stronger. 
She had grown up In Ithaca so she had plenty of friends 
there. She didn't do anything special that I can recall 
In the way of church work; It's possible that she did 
and I didn't know It. We all went to church very 
regularly . 

One of my happiest recollections Is that during 
Lent I always went across the park where our church was, 
with my mother, for the five o'clock Lenten services, 
which I enjoyed very much. 

Gluck: But you don't recall her being active outside the house 

Seller: No, I really don't. Incidentally, my mother, being 

very maternal, I think was sympathetic about suffrage, 
but I would never say that she was a confirmed suffragist. 
I don't think It would ever have occurred to her If her 
daughters hadn't been so much Interested. 

Gluck i Your grandfather, of course, died before It was — 

Seller: He died In 1901. 

Gluck: You have no sense of what he felt about It. 

Seller: No. And I think what got us Interested was that Mrs. 
Blatch's daughter, Nora Stanton Blatch, was a student 
at Cornell and a great friend of my sister's. I can 
remember Nora coming to dinner and much discussion of 
suffrage and so forth and so on. So, It was no surprise 

Seller: when my sister graduated that she should take a very 
active part In suffrage In New York. 

Gluck: At this point, though, your grandmother and grand 
father had both died, so there was no question about 
what their attitudes would have been. 

Seller* That's right. No, I have no Idea. 

Gluck: When you mentioned that your family traced back to 
pre-Revolutlonary times, that was on your mother's 

Seller i Both sides. 

Gluck i Were your mother and father separated or divorced? 

Sellen They were originally Just separated — when I was six 
months old. My mother didn't get the divorce until 
1900. My grandfather Insisted that she get It because 
he felt he wasn't going to live much longer, and he 
wanted that all settled - for matters of the estate - 
I suspect. 

Gluck: That was one of the things I wondered — It was very 

unusual In those early days for a woman to be divorced, 
with the attitudes towards — 

Seller: Yes, and my mother, I think, was definitely made to 

feel It when she returned to the bosom of an orthodox 
Episcopal family? that this living away from the 
husband was not the thing to do. I definitely suffered 
very much when I was a small child because my sister 
told me, very early, that I must not ask my mother any 
questions about It. So I really hadn't the remotest 
Idea where my father was or what was the matter with 
him. It bothered me a great deal as a child. Other 
children — some of them had fathers who worked In 
Buffalo or someplace like that and came home on the 
weekends, but they came home. I was the only one who 
had no father. 

Of course, I have since thought that, In spite of 
Its enormous disadvantages which I recognize, It also 
probably was partly responsible for my somewhat more 
friendly and less critical attitude toward men. I 
really never, In my family, encountered the thing known 
as a dominating male. My grandfather then was too old 
and too mellow and, of course, charming with us children i 
he never was, I think, the tyrannical sort. I Just 
grew up liking men [laughter] and never have 
cause to change my mind. 

Gluckj Do you recall suffering any ostracism or Isolation 
from other children In school because of your 
mother's divorce? 

Sellen No, no. I remember the milkman, to whose beautiful 
dairy farm I was sent to spend my summers after I'd 
had a very bad attack of flu, when he Introduced me 
to people, he always introduced me as Judge Ellsworth's 

granddaughter, and I was very pleased e [Laughter*] 

Grandfather was really the most Important person 
in my group; I used to spend a great many hours with 
him after he was retired. He mostly sat about in a 
chair on the porch or in the house. 

Gluckj You had no contact at all with your father or his 

family, then, until you we re 
seller: I think I was eight the first time we were Invited over 
to Buffalo by my grandmother to spend Christmas. That 
was the first time I ever saw my father. Then, we also 
went back the year they had the Pan American Exposition 
in Buffalo (1901). We spent almost the whole summer 
In Buffalo going to the fair every other day and 
staying with my grandmother and my father. That was 
about all. 

Gluckj So it was very minimal contact. 

In the household, were there any differences in 
the expectations for you and your sister as compared to 
your brother in terms of education or what you would do? 

Seller: No, my father had been a Cornell man, and it was always 
taken for granted that we would all go to college. 

Gluck: The girls, too? 

Seller: Oh yes. 

Gluck: Had your mother been educated at Cornell? 

Seller: Mother had wanted to be a doctor, but they told her 

that she didn't have the physique for it. I think many 
girls were discouraged in that age by telling them that 
it was too strenuous and they could never do it. So 
she didn't go to college. She was always quite resentful, 
I think, that she hadn't. I don't remember but I don't 
think there was a finishing school in Ithaca in her days. 
I don't recall that she did anything in the way of a 
special school after she finished high school. 


Glucki So the granddaughters, then, were the first generation 
of women actually to be educated? 

Seller: Yes, to go on to college. As far as I know. 

Gluck: It was primarily just assumed that you would all go 
on to school. 

Seller: Oh, yes. We were all Infected with the Cornell Idea. 
Students frequently came to call on my sister. No It 
was Just taken for granted that we would all go to 
Cornell. We were always Invited to parties at the 
Sigma Phi fraternity - my grandfather's fraternity at 
Union . 

Gluck: And was It assumed that you would have careers, or Just 
the education? 

Sellen I think It was assumed that my sister would because she 
was utterly devoted to my grandfather. At that time, 
she herself wanted to be a lawyer. That was the Idea. 
She abandoned It only after she took a year off between 
her junior and senior years In college and came down 
and worked for a year In New York. Then it was that 
she fell in love with Wall Street and decided that she 
preferred to go into the bond and stock business rather 
than be a lawyer. 

Gluck: There was encouragement in the family for the Idea of 
her possibly practicing law? 

Seller: Yes. There was never anything said against it* She 

must, I think, have discussed it quite often with grand 
father. And of course, whe was determined to do well 
in school. She got Phi Beta Kappa, too, and has always 
had my grandfather's key. I was so cross that there 
vfes only one large key that when I got mine, I bought 
the smallest one there was ["laughter! — it's about an 
Inch long. I was so furious that I couldn't have my 

Gluck: Nora Blatch first came into your home when you were how 
old — in high school, wasn't it? 

Seller: Let aie think. My sister graduated in 1908, but she 

could have graduated in 190? . She took a year off because 
she wanted to make up her mind what she wanted really to 
do. She wound up graduating In the same class with my 
brother though she was actually ahead of him. 

Nora mu± have been In and out of our house in 

Seller: in 1903 or '0^, I would think. Somewhere In there. 

I only remember that they were In college at the same 
time and saw a good deal of each other. 

Gluck: What was the response of your mother and your aunt to 
her and the Ideas that she was bringing In, do you 

Seller: I don't remember, and I doubt very much that they 
were talked of before them — probably not. 

Glucki Do you recall your first reactions to her and some of 
her ideas? You were awfully young at the time. 

Seller: Well, I can only tell you something that I thought was 

quite funny. In high school, the speech teacher thought 
it would be highly instructive to have a debate on 
woman's suffrage. She picked out two girls, of which 
I was one, to do the affirmative, and two boys to uphold 
the negative. And we had a spirited debate before the 
school assembly. 

The really funny thing was that in the heat of 
rebuttal, I announced in firm tones, "The more 
responsibility you give women, the more they'll have»" 
and there was a burst of howls from the audience, and 
I couldn't imagine for the moment what I'd said that 
was so funny. I heard about that for years afterwards. 

Well, we won the debate, but then I was not 
especially Interested in suffrage. I don't ever re 
member being interested again in it until I was in 
college. One day, the boy that I was engaged to — 
somebody had said something about the law about suffrage, 
and I heard him saying, rather smugly, "Laura doesn't 
believe in suffrage or any of that nonsense," and all of 
a sudden, I knew I did I [Laughter] 

That must have been around my Junior year, and I 
forthwith started the Suffrage Club at Cornell among 
the coeds. 

Gluck: I see. So there was a contact with probably germination 
of Ideas that didn't really come to — 

Sellers No, I wasn't doing anything about It. My sister was 
already working furiously for It in New York, but I 
wasnt doing anything about it except reading some of 
the books. 

Gluck: You graduated from high school in 1907? 


Seller: Yes, and Cornell didn't take girls until they were 

seventeen, so I had to wait a year. I spent the winter 
of that year down in Panama. My father was the official 
estimator — he was an architect — on buildings for the 
canal zone when they were building the canal. My 
grandmother had been down there with him, and he thought 
it would be very nice if I came down and spent the 
winter with my grandmother and him. So I did that; I 
was there from about October til February. 

Gluck: You didn't do anything special down there? 

Seller: No, no — Just had a lot of fun* I got back Just In 

time to take the last semester in school again. I took 
some post-graduate work. Then f the following autumn, 
I went to the university. 



Gluck: What was your course of study at the University? 

Seller: I took an Arts course, as my sister had done. My 

brother was both an engineer and a naval architect. 
I got Phi Beta Kappa, for reasons that were a great 
surprise to me, since I had not concentrated on high 
marks, especially. Meeting one of my professors coming 
up the hill one day, I expressed my surprise. He said, 
"Well, It was kind of a relief to be able to vote for 
somebody who hadn't always had her nose in a book." 

Gluck: When you entered Cornell, did you have any idea about 
the course of study you wanted to take, or what you 
were going to do In the future? 

Seller: I wouldn't say that I had any very clear idea because 

years afterwards, when I was invited back to Cornell to 
make a vocational speech to girls, the Dean of Women 
said to me laughing, "Laura, do you know what you put 
on your application when you came in? As a freshman, 
you were asked what you intended to do. You put down 
that you intended to be a teacher, and the next question 
was why, and you said, 'Because they have such long, 
summer vacations.' "[Laughter] That shows you Just 
how nuch I had in mind about a career. 

I took the minimum number of courses in modern 
langua^os to get by for my najor, and every year, when 
I took my list of courses up to be okayed by my faculty 
adviser, he would heave a large sigh and say, "I suppose 
if you don't intend to teach, it doesn't matter, because 
this is a salad course." [Laughter"] 

I Just took the courses that Interested me. I took 
evolution, and comparative religions, and lots of 
philosophy, some psychology — all kinds of things — 


Seller: and, as I say, a minimum of my major. 

Gluck: Was your expectation of having a career, though, at 
that time? 

Seller: Yes, I expected to do something but had no idea what. 
Hy sister would never have let me get to that point 
without a definite idea that I was going to have a 

Gluck: That was one of my questions, in fact. Did you see 

combining a career and marriage, then, when you were a 
student at Cornell and before you had actually married? 

Seller: I guess I must have because I definitely was engaged 
when I left Cornell, and I also was definitely 
planning to do something. You see, when my grandfather's 
estate was settled, he had four daughters; the estate 
WGS divided evenly among them, except that he subtracted 
from my mother's part the very considerable sums of money 
that he had advanced to her during her most unsatisfactory 
marriage. So that my mother with three children got 
very much less than the other three who had no children, 
which made it quite tough. 

By the time we were ready to come down to New York, 
I don't think there was very much capital left. I always 
expected that I would be doing something in the way of 
earning a living; I had no very definite ideas about it. 

Gluck t It was while you were at Cornell that you became 
Involved in the suffrage movement? 

Seller: It was a very natural thing for me to be interested in 
suffrage because of my sister's association with 
Nora Blatch, granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

Ky sister graduated in 1908 and went to New York 
and was the vice-president of The Women's Political 
Union, which was, I think, the most militant of the 
national organizations. 

Of course, I took time off and went down and 
marched In the suffrage parade, at my sister's behest. 

Gluck: Was that the 1913 parage? 

Seller: I'm hot quite sure. I would have thought it was 

1912.: At any rate, Inez I'ilholland led It, looking 
very beautiful. There were both Jeers and cheers from 


Seller: the sidewalk. 

Gluck: Did you narch In tho Cornell contingent? 

Seller: IJo, probably with The Women's Political Union. 

There were not very many people interested in 
suffrage at Cornell at the time I started the Suffrage 
Club in 1912. I don't know whether It was my idea or 
whether my sister asked me to do it. I just called, or 
put up a notice, or something. I didn't live at the 
dormitory; I lived at home. I called a meeting In our 
general auditorium, explained to thorn about the suffrage 
movement. (I think it was after I'd been down to march 
in the parade, probably.) 

Gluck: Tow many women showed up at the meeting? 

Seller: Cornell at that time had only about three hundred 
women and some four thousand men. I'd say we 
probably had a pretty big club before we got through. 
And of course it vrent on after I left. I should guess 
that we must have had at least seventy-five, something 
like that. It was fairly popular with the women. 

Gluck: Uhat sort of activities did the club engage in then? 

Seller: Mostly tall', among themselves, except for one occasion 
when we staged a debate. 

The Debate Debacle 

Seller: One of the men students came over to see me one day 
to say that his mother, who was a prominent anti- 
suffragist, was coming to visit him. He asked it I 
would like to arrange a debate while she was there. 
I was entitled to ask that one of the big auditoriums 
be set aside, and so I said, "Yes, I would." 

I didn't think it was suitable for a person my ago 
to debate his mother. So I consulted the head of the 
Women's Club in Ithaca, the wife of an instructor. 
She agreed to debate. She was a very earnest young 
woman but not a skilled debater. 

Tho woman who came from : r ew York was a very "grand 
dame " Indeed, with all the polished manners to go with 




debating. Sitting up on the platform, as chairman, 
I became congealed ulth horror because what was 
developing was a hair- pulling performance, setting 
the audience into fits of laughter. The woman from 
Uew York would say, ": ow my esteemed opponent has 
said so-and-so, " and the other woman, who was by then 
furious at the customary misleading statements that 
anti-stiff racists specialized in, would say, "What she 
says is not so!" or, "That's a lie!" 

And I, of course, grew frantic realizing that the 
audience, many of whom were townspeople as well as 
students, Trcre going out to laugh their heads off j 
certainly, it was going to do suffrage no ^ood. I 
also kr.ew chairmen were supposed to keep their mouths 
shut, but I was a suffragist and I wasn't going to let 
this thing go dovm the river. 

So I rose up at the end and thanked both of 
them and then, proceeded — rather crisply, I think — 
in about five minutes, to point out to them the 
difference between personality and causes; they could 
leave either confirmed in reaction with the anti- 
suffragists or planning to go ahead with the suffragists. 
And as sometimes happens in those circumstances, I was 
so ccnvlncorJ that I was right that I felt about eight 
feet tall and I've never spoken better - with the result 
that I got an ovation at the end. 

It did result in more women students Joining our 
suffrage organization. AIL together it turned out well 
in the enr* , except that I received a letter of reprimand 
from ray sister who said, "Well, I hop^ you realize now 
all you did was to furnish an audience and a platform 
for an an tl- suffragist." 

But I continued to believe that people should 
hear both sides of the story. It may not have been good 
maneuvering, but I thought it was the honest way to do it, 

Aside from this experience with the debate, do you recall 
any heckling or ridicule on the part of the other 
students towards the women who were suffragists? 



Of course, we were not very aggressive suffragists. 
*.7e net in. the women's dormitory. "fecept for this debate, 
I don't recall that Tie did any other public things — 
just meetings by ourselves. 

The ; ^roup had been going for a while before the debate 





Gluck : 

was presented. 

Was there any connection between the college club and 
any suffrage .°:roup active In the town itself? 

:io, not that I recall. The woman I had asked to debate 
was not the head of a suffrage group; she was head of 
the Women's Club in Ithaca. Mo, I don't recall that there 
was any special connection. Contrary to the way it 
really is here in Claremont, the town and gown were very 
separate in Ithaca. They had a town and gown club in 
which a few men and women from the city joined with the 
faculty. But basically, the University was up on the 
hill anri the town was dotm in the valley and they had 
not too much to do with each other. 

Do you recall there being a suffrage group j. n the town? 

Oddly enough, I don't. I think the Women's Club may 
have been vaguely interested, but I don't remember. 
I'm sure if there had been a suffrage society t I would 
have asked the head of that Instead of the president 
of the Women's Club. No, that was fairly early In the 
suffrage movement. I don't know, of course, about 
Mrs. Catt's organization; I have no idea how widespread 
suffrage organizations were then. Mrs. Hlatch had 
concentrated largely In and around Mew York City. 



Seller: Then, when I graduated, The Women's Political Union 
decided that It would be a very good thing for me to 
pro and "organize" as they then called It, the two 
counties of Chautauqua and Gattaraugus In 'lew York 
State. I think that perhaps my endeavors were among 
the early ones to organize the counties. Certainly 
nobody had been in those counties before. More work 
had probably been done up in Westchester and places 
like that, nearer "ew York, but I think perhaps mine 
was the first attempt to organize the western counties. 

Gluck: Were these basically farming communities? 

Seller: No, they were small towns with manufacturing. Of course, 
there was lots of farming in between. In those days, 
the population was much, much less than now. Mostly 
they were small towns with one factory, let's say, or 
some kind of business in which the people worked — 
like Jamestown and Silver Greek and places like that. 
My mother, who was not a confirmed suffragist but a 
very charming Victorian, went along to chaperone me. 

I had a little list given me of people thought to be 
sympathizers, and I was supposed to go in and organize 
them and leave a unit behind to go on working. Ahead of 
time, I had to send the newspapers a little publicity, 
telling them what it was going to be about. When I got 
there, I had to contact all these women and get them 

Then , I had to make a street speech. That was in 
the days when you could still rent cars where the back 
went down. So, we would rent a car and put an enormous 
banner across the back of It. Then I would stand up on 
the back seat to make a speech. 

Of course, the most difficult moment for a street 


Seller: speaker Is getting a crowd. As In all small towns, the 
most — well, how shall I put It? — the most popular 
corner of the street was the one that held the bar. I 
always directed the chauffeur to stop Just outside the 

riy mother, who was small, and charming, and utterly 
Victorian, and convinced that all good things started 
with the favor of the male, would go through the swinging 
doors and say, "Gentlemen, my daughter is going to talk 
about suffrage outside, and I think you would be Inter 
ested. I hope you'll come out." And just like the Pled 
Piper, they would all dump their drinks on the bar and 
come out and make the nucleus of the crowd. 

Then, I was always embarrassed to have to take up 
a collection. I was convinced they thought we put It In 
our own pockets. But mother had no such qualms. She 
would circulate about giving out the pamphlets and holding 
out a basket and saying, "I'm sure you want to help the 
cause," and the folding money would, come In. She was 
In valuable I 

Gluck: Did she become a believer? 

Seller: Oh, well, as long as her daughters believed in it t but 
she never did any work for suffrage that I recall. She 
did a lot for the Hed Cross but I don't recall her 
working for suffrage. 

Gluck: You mentioned that you had a banner on the car. Do you 
recall what the banner would say? Was It purple, gold 
and white? 

Seller: Yes, that's right. The white was for purity, of course; 

the green was for courage; and the purple was for Justice. 
That's supposed to be the explanation that we gave. 

Gluck: And the banner was Just one side of the car? 

Seller: No. It was a big one and it covered the whole back of. 
the car. You know how, on the old-fashioned cars, the 
back went down. The banner would cover practically the 
entire back; it made a very effective device for public 

Gluck: You didn't have any "votes for women" banners? 

Seller: I don't recall; we had lots of literature but I don't 

recall any other banners. The big one we carried with us, 
Just for this purpose. But of course they had lots of 
those in the *:ew York office, lots of "votes for women" 


Seller: and other types of placards that were carried in small 
d emon st rat ions. 

Appealing to the Men 




What was th< 

usual argument that you would give In your 

That varied a little, according to the type of town. In 
general, it was the injustice of it and the fact, also, 
that the Injustice affected men indirectly; It held down 
the wages of all of them If women were underpaid. 

Once, in a small town, I had a very amusing exper 
ience. We*d been the guests in the house of a man who 
owned a factory - a very charming young man and his wife. 
I made a speech and, in the course of it, I reminded the 
crowd that the only way men had been able really to affect 
their wages, and conditions, and so forth was getting 
together into unions and bringing pressure to bear. A 
ripple of laughter swept the crowd and I couldn't imagine 
why until I got back to my host's home. He told me that 
he had spent all the last year fighting their efforts to 
form a union. So here I was, under his auspices, advising 
them to do it. [Laughter! 

Well, things like that happened. And we also, of 
course, were aware that there were still dreadful con 
ditions in factories in those days. We bore down on 
things of that sort. Child labor was by no means unheard 
of - anymore than it is today. 

We used all sorts of arguments, depending a good deal 
on the audience and on the woman who was making the speech. 

Actually, it was a broader position than the suffrage 
position, then? i'.any suffragists would focus only on the 
vote and. wouldn't deal with other social Issues. 

At least my feeling is that most of us focused on the 
importance of the vote to change social conditions. 

In these small towns, when you traveled around in the 
chauffeured car, what sorts of reactions did you get? 

We didn't travel in chauffeured cars; we didn't have that 
kind of money. We rented a car In each place. 

Specifically for the purpose of speaking? What sort of 
reactions did you get from your audiences? 


Seller: In general — how nuch was due to my good mother, I 

don't know — I remember considerable enthusiasm and, 

also, a great deal of good-natured tolerance on the 

part of the men. And, as I say, rather rrood collections, 

Tluck: Did you pass around petitions for their signatures 

after the talk? 

Seller: No, I don't recall and petitions. We always gave out 
a good many pamphlets on one thing and another. 

Gluck: Was the audience primarily men? 

Seller: It would be in the evening, after dinner, that we made 

these speeches, in order to catch the men off work; the 
crowd would be mostly men. 

Gluck: It sounds like — from the one speech you mentioned 

where you talked about unions — that you basically did 
speak to a working class group. 

Seller: The people you're likely to pick up in a street crowd 

are nearly all of them from that class, except for a few 
others that might really be interested in suffrage or 
might just happen to be roaming around. 

Organ izing t h e Women 


Did you make efforts to try to reach, say, the middle 

That was the whole object of leaving behind a definite 
affiliated organization, in other words, a chapter of 
The Women's Political Union. 

In most of the small towns, where I had the names 
of perhaps three or four women who were thought to be 
sympathetic, they would arrange a house meeting for the 
purpose of forming a group. I would talk to the women 
about it, and provide them with the materials, and tell 
them how to organize and so forth. 

It was up to them, then, to do the local work on 
all classes. And, of course, usually the people whose 
names we had as sympathizers were definitely upper class 
or upper middle class. They were people who had traveled 
and for some reason or another had expressed some interest 
in suffrage. I don't recall any laboring class women 
who were ever on that list. 


Seller: Of course, that was very fortunate for us. We were 

trying to reach the local leaders in small tovms and let 
them conduct the local organization work. It was called 
an o r gan izat ion trip and that's just what it was. 

Gluck: Were you fairly successful in each of these towns? 

Seller: Yes, I would think we'd say so. We left be hind a ftood 
nucleus of women who would then start in to plan and to 
work actively, to do things themselves. Oh yes, it bore 
fruit, definitely. And of course, it gave the central 
organization a chapter with which to work directly to 
make suggestions? the chapter could ask questions and 
get material to us, just the way a political organization 
would work. 

Some of those women that I organized went on into 
quite extensive suffragist experiences. One of them, I 
remember somewhat to my dismay, later joined Alice Paul's 
group and was hunger-striking in Washington. 

I'm quite sure that that kind of campaigning did a 
lot of good, because we reached people, I'm sure, who 
were not in the least Interested in suffrage up to that 

moment . 

Gluck: What was the age of the women in the small towns that 
you would pull together into a suffrage group? 

Seller: Ky recollection is, mostly not so young; married. I 

would say perhaps women in their late thirties, middle 

Gluck: How long did you spend in this campaign going to these 
small towns? 

Seller: All summer. In other words, as soon as I got my degree. 
I was the last; the others were already in New York. 
I'other waited until I was through school; then we went 
Immediately and started on the campaign. I think we 
spent probably about six weeks in each county, and that 
made it about the first of September when we got back to 
'ew York. 



Gluck: When you graduated and went on the tour, was your 

expectation that after the tour you would go back to 
New York and work? 

Seller: We were going to New York; that's where my sister and 
brother already were.. There was no question of where 
we were going. 

Gluck: Your sister was down In New York already working? 

Seller: Yes, on Wall Street. 

Gluck: And your brother had gone into what field? 

Seller: Hy brother had taken both marine architecture and 
mechanical engineering; he got degrees In both of 
them. He had wanted very much to do marine architecture, 
but there was absolutely nothing going on like that 
when he left college. He went for a little while into 
the "experimental basin," as they call it, in Washington. 

Eventually he came out to the Atlantic Gulf and 
Pacific Company and was their head engineer, for many 
years before he died. I don't remember too much about 
those years In between. It was very difficult for him; 
he couldn't do what he wanted to do. 

Gluck: You went to New York City, following these tours you 
made with the car, is that it? 

Seller: Yes, and I was the head of The Women's Political Union 
Speakers 1 Bureau for quite a long time. I had had 
training in Cornell In public speaking. I was supposed 
to coach all the volunteer speakers; we spoke on the 
street corners every night. I didn't do the speaker's 
job for more than six months, perhaps. Not very long. 


Seller: I didn't approve of several things Mrs. Blatch did 

within the organization. I felt her very arbitrary and 
didn't like her too well. 

Gluck: So you went to work for The Women's Political Union. 

You mentioned earlier that they were the most militant 
national group at the time. In what ways? 

Seller: When I speak of the Women's Political Union as the 
most militant, I have in mind that we believed much 
more in demonstrations, in street speaking, and in 
things of that kind which I don't remember as being 
characteristic of the other organizations. For Instance, 
we spoke on street corners every night of the week, 
using soap boxes with handles on them which every 
suffragette carried out and plunked down on the curbstone. 
We had to have permits for speaking, but we got them 
from the police department. 

Now the others may have done a lot of street 
speaking but if so, I wasn't conscious of It. They 
mostly spoke In halls and so on. But we belived you 
had to get to people who weren't in the least interested 
in suffrage. That was the whole theory. 

Gluck: How many of you would go on to the street corner when 
you spoke? 

Seller: Of course, It depended. We had really a lot of 

volunteers. I would say there must have been at least 
ten or twelve out of our office speaking on street 
corners every night. 

Gluck: Where was the office? 

Seller: The office that I remember best, and I think It was there 
all the time, was just off Fifth Avenue on *J-2nd Street, 
almost opposite the library. 

The Structure of The Women's Political Union 

Gluck: Can you tell me more about the way in which that 

organization was structured, how decisions were made, 
and the leadership role. 

Seller: The president was Mrs. Blatch, and my sister was the 
vice-president. I can't remember all the personnel. 


Seller: The board made the decisions. Mrs. Blatch, of course» 
was always in the office. I think Mrs. Blatch was 
the only officer who was all the time at headquarters. 
The others were all having Jobs of their own, of one 
kind or another, and they were Just serving on the 
board. I don't remember too much about that. Of course, 
I was not on the board; I only know a little from 

It was a fairly good sized organization, and of 
course we had many, many volunteers. As you know, 
most of the suffrage work was done by volunteers. We 
had lots of volunteer speakers. 

After I left the suffrage organization, and went 
Into advertising, I spoke for them every so often — 
rather often, as a matter of fact. During the campaign 
in New York State for suffrage, at which we were turned 
down, I did speak. I took time off and had my daughter 
looked after and spoke continuously for the last week 
or so. 

Gluck: When you were with The Women's Political Union as head 
of the Speakers' Bureau, were you actually a paid 

Seller: No. I may have been, a small sum. I was living with my 
mother and sister, and I don't remember that. I very 
likely must have been . 

Gluck: But you were doing only that at that time? 

Seller: Yes, that's all. I was training speakers and giving 
them their assignments and doing a lot of speaking 


Gluck: Plow many speakers were there? 

Seller: They were on a voluntary basis and some did much more 
speaking than others. We did have, especially at 
campaign times, a certain number of women who were 
taken on and paid small sums; probably Just enough to 
cover their expenses. But that was never a very great 
item. You were supposed to be giving your time and 
yourself as much as you could afford to. The secretaries, 
of course, were paid, like anybody else. But most of 
the work was really done by volunteers. 

Gluck: You said that most of the women were probably in their 
late thirties or early forties? 

Seller: Some of them were older. We had [laughter] a large 
roster of very famous older women who came In and 
stuffed envelopes and did things of that kind. 

Relationship Between Suffrage Groups 

Gluck: Was there any feeling of competition with the other, 
more conservative, suffragists? 

Seller: They often didn't agree on tactics. Mrs. Blatch, I 
may say, was married to an Englishman, but I don't 
know whether she had lived a long time In England or 
not. At any rate, we as a society were much closer 
to the Hhgllsh group than any of the others. 

I've forgotten the exact title of Mrs. 0. H. P. 
Belmont's group. I think it was the Woman's Suffrage 
Organization, or something like that. Mrs. Catt's 
was, of course, the National Organization. (National 
American Woman Suffrage Association). I think there 
was a feeling (among these groups) that the things 
the women were doing in England were rather outrageous 
and they wanted no part of them; whereas, Mrs. Blatch 
felt — which accounts in part for the name of the 
organization — Women's Political Union — that the 
only way they were ever really going to get anywhere 
was to exert political pressure.* 

Consequently, there were very friendly relations 
with the Pankhursts and with many other English people. 
Mrs. Pankhurst came, I know, and addressed a large 
dinner meeting. Sylvia Pankhurst came over and also 
spoke, and I think we raised some money for her at one 
time or another. Beatrice Forbes- Robert son was here — 
people like that. 

The Englishwomen were a much more radically oriented 
group, I would say, than the Americans ever were. We 
did no chaining of ourselves to lamp posts. The nearest 
approach to It, of course, was Alice Paul, with her 

*The name was taken from the British group, The Women's 
Social and Political Union. 
(Editor's note) 


Seller: hunger strikers. 

Gluck : 

Gluck : 


Gluck : 


Gluck : 


And there's no doubt about It, her effort Is 
what precipitated the president's decision to bring 
the matter before Congress. I'm very sure that If 
Alice Paul had not carried on those demonstrations, 
It would have gone on years more before It ever got 
to the Congress. I think we should give her due credit. 

What was the reaction of the Women's Political Union 
when Alice Paul formed the National Woman's Party? 

We had, as you would expect, a mixture of conservatives 
and more radical ones. I think there was a general 
feeling that they were going too far. That wasn't true 
of all of them, and there was a great deal of sympathy 
for what she was trying to do. But I think there was 
a good deal of scepticism as to the wisdom of some of 
the things she did. 

I have read accounts which vary* I know Harriot Stanton 
Blatch said, at one point, that she was responsible 
for bringing the militant tactics to the United States 
although Alice Paul was the one to whom that was 

I think that is true because, certainly, Mrs. Blatch 
was working on these things long before Alice Paul came 
into the picture at all. But I think Alice Paul carried 
them to the extreme, and went far beyond anything 

Mrs. Blatch would have suggested herself, 

That's my 

Was there a very clear separation between the groups? 
For Instance, were there women involved in your group 
who might also be involved in — 

I don't think so. The tactics were quite different and 
the leadership was very different, and I would be 
surprised if there were. There may have been someone 
disgruntled with one group who went into another — 
that's quite possible — but I don't remember any women 
who ever worked for two at once. 

You say there were other causes that most of the women In 
the Women's Political Union espoused. Now, for Instance, 
unions — 

Yes. Of course 

, they didn't all agree about that, 


Seller: They were all interested in the remnants of 

child labor - which still existed. You may recall 
that was the period of the horrible Shirtwaist Pire 
(Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 1911) and all that sort of 
thing. There were plenty of abuses. 

I remember when I visited my sister for a summer 
vacation before I was through college. She got me a 
press card to the old Morning Telegraph. The editor 
sent me on assignments, one of which was the Hobo 
Convention at which Debs was supposed to appear? he 
didn't, because I think at that time he was in jail. 
Bill Haywood came to the convention and spoke in 
place of Deos« There were lots of reporters there. 

We all held a little spoofy meeting when we 
discovered we were not going to have Kr. Debs. Reporters 
made speeches and they asked "Sis Hopkins" - which was 
me - to make onej we all wrote that up for the papers. 
I remember that the Morning Telegraph published two 
versions of this, one by the man and one by the woman 
(me), side by side. 

What really reminded me of that (newspaper) was, 
among other things, the editor told me, for my own 
education, to visit the women's night court, which I 
did. I was quite horrified at what seemed to me the 
disregard of women's feelings and rights. I remember one 
case, especially. It was the trial of a prostitute; 
and, no doubt, she was a prostitute. Her lawyer said 
something about It was her word against the policeman. 
There were no witnesses. The judge said pontifically, 
"The word of an officer needs no corroboratlon."" I was 
enraged I That's the one thing I remember clearly out of 
that assignment. 

That attitude was, of course, general* women were 
viewed as second-class citizens. There's no two ways 
about It. Their advice was not taken seriously and 
their opinions were not given the same weight as those 
of men. I don't think anybody argues about that anymore. 
It's still true, of course. 

Gluck: Was there a connection between your group and, for 
instance, the Women's Self Supporting League or the 
Women's Trade Union League both of which were attempting 
to bridge the gap between women in industry and suffrage? 

Seller: We had a very marvelous woman, Florence Kelley (of the 
National Consumers League), who was on our board, as I 


Sellen recall It. A very fine person. As I remember it, 

she was especially interested in the trade union move 
ment for women. 

I remember doing a brochure. I had carefully dug 
out of the library all of the instances where women 
were discriminated against. When the pamphlet came out t 
Florence Kelley sent for me and she said, "I wonder if 
you have any idea how really unfair this pamphlet is?" 

"It's all there in black and white," I responded. 
"Yes," she said, "but so often there are the balancing 
laws against these." I remember her saying to me, "In 
addition to the dower rights, there are the things 
called courtesy rights which help to offset these. And 
that's true In all statements. It's true of all the 
statements you've made." I was crushed. 

What I had said was true, but it was not true in 
the sense of the whole truth? I think she impressed 
that on me forever more. She was a quite marvelous 
person . 

There were others, like Dr. Anna Shaw, who were 
outstanding Just as people. 

Gluck: Was she fairly active in the Women's Political Union, 

Seller: I'm not at all sure that she belonged to the Women's 

Political Union or whether she sort of stood outside of 
all the organizations. She spoke for us very, very 
often, and she may well have been, but that I don't 
remember. I think of her as a national suffragist 

Gluck: She seems to have been quite often associated with 
Carrie Chapman Catt. 

Seller: Yes, I think she was. She stands In my mind with a 

little group of very fine and prominent women who lent 
their support to suffrage, but I don't associate her 
with any special group. 

Gluck: Were there any ties between the suffragists and the 
early birth control movement? 

Seller: Yes. Fiargaret Sanger was quite a good friend of my 

sister's. She started those clinics in New York that 
were periodically closed up by the police and reopened 


Seller: and argued over and so forth. 

Gluck: Would the women In the Women's Political Union, for 
instance, give outright support for something like 
that - which was still quite illegal? 

Seller: I think that would have been an entirely Individual 

affair. I think many of them were very Interested and 
admired Mrs. Sanger very much, but I'm very, very sure 
that I don't ever remember the Women's Political Union 
endorsing anything outside of its own interests. I 
don't think they could have? the women in it were 
much too diverse. There would be such a risk of 
antagonizing those who didn't agree at all. There were 
women who believed all kinds of things. The only thing, 
you might say, that they all believed was that women 
ought to have the vote. 

We had all faiths and all types of people working 
for suffrage, most diverse. In fact, for me it was a 
liberal education, meeting the kind of people I'd never 
come into contact with before. Some of them were most 
admirable. Every once in awhile, they'd provoke some 
funny things. 

The daughter of Robert Ingersoll had a house in 
Gramercy Park and they used often to have little 
committee meetings there. Among others, one of the best 
workers in certain districts was a young Jewish girl 
from Russia, as I recall it. She attended a meeting one 
evening and took off her coat and gave it to the butler. 
Then she said, "Where Is my check?" The butler said 
haughtily, "It won't be necessary, madam." /Laughter./ 
Of course, that little story went all around with great 
entertainment . 

But it's a very good example of the complete cross- 
section that we had in the suffrage movement, and I 
must truthfully say that I never say any hint of snob 
bishness. There may have been some here and there, but 
it seemed to me that we all worked together for this one 
thing, without regard. 

I was, for instance, assigned to make campaign 
speeches in the section that was run by this same girl. 
I went and I did exactly what she asked me, and she said 
very approvingly, "Well, it's nice to know you really 
take orders!" I said, "Of course. I came over, as my 
assignment, to do what you wanted done in this area." 
Evidently she had encountered others who hadn't been 


Seller: quite so cooperative. 

But, I do think that all kinds and conditions 
of women were working together for suffrage, with 
great unanimity on the whole. 

Gluck: Was there a sort of sisterhood of women as a result 
of the common goal? 

Seller: Well, only within the organization. I guess I knew 
as many women who didn't believe In suffrage as who 
did. An awful lot violently disapproved. But certainly 
there was a great feeling of cooperation and admiration 
among the women who worked together. 

Gluck: What were the reactions of friends of yours who were 
not involved in suffrage? 

Seller: They just thought it a lot of nonsense. I didn't 
happen to number among my friends any ardent antl- 
suffraglsts who did anything about it. Most of them 
were just plain indifferent and thought it was a great 
waste of time, that it would Just all be the same. 

You know, oddly enough, they anticipated what 
really happened. Most of my friends said, "This isn't 
going to make any difference; they're all going to vote 
the way their fathers and their husbands do anyway." 
You see, that was the burden of their song. As it 
happened, that's just about the way it turned out, un 

Tactics: From "The Doxolog.v" to Motorboats 

Gluck: When you were coordinating the Speakers' Bureau, this 
was not Just of women who went out onto the street and 
were speaking on soap boxes; they would also speak at 

Seller: Oh yes, all kinds of things. One, that I remember, was 
very funny. A tiny little man in very shabby clothes — 
a clergyman from a parish somewhere out in the wilds of 
Long Island — came in one day and asked for a speaker 
for an evening meeting. He went to Mrs. Blatch and 
Mrs. Blatch brought him out to me. 


Seller: I had already assigned all my speakers for that 
evening, so I said I'd have to do it myself. My 
family was not exactly charmed by my taking these 
evening meetings, but I did when I had to. He said he 
would prefer a little older and more experienced woman. 
I-lrs. Blatch came down hard on him and said, "Laura is 
one of our most experienced speakers," and went back into 
her office. So he was a little crushed. 

He began to explain to me how I had to get there. 
I had to change buses twice and so forth, and also that 
his wife was in a wheelchair. She'd been In an accident. 
She was very anxious to have me come out for supper. 

I went and it was quite an experience. They sent 
me upstairs to wash my hands, and the bathtub was full 
of goldfish. They had two little boys and the little 
boys had the upper part of the house. When I came back 
downstairs, they were standing at the foot of the stairs 
grinning, and their father said to me, "They wanted me 
to tell you that on Saturday nights, they take the fish 
out and take their baths." [Laurhterl 

Then we went over to the church and there was a 
small group of women. His wife was a very ardent suffra 
gist and she had started this little group. The first 
thing he did was to ask me to play the doxology. I had 
never opened a suffrage meeting with a doxology before, 
but I was lucky enough to be able to play It and so I 

Then the women clustered around afterward and told 
me all about this wife and I said, "How come the Doxology?* 
They said, "Well, Mrs. (what ever- her-name-was) puts more 
faith In God than in politicians." [Laughter") 

So there were lots of funny little things like that 
that went on, too. It wasn't all difficult. 

Gluck: You were married during a lot of this campaigning? 

Seller: Not during the two months In the summer. I was married 
the following October, after I got back from upstate 
New York. 

Gluck : When you were In New York and coordinating the Speakers' 
Bureau, what were your husband's feelings about suffrage 
and your work? 

Seller: He was a very gentle and kind man. 

Seller: The only time I remember specifically upsetting 

him was when Nora Blatch and somebody else had made a 
riding trip through a couple of counties. They were 
always dreaming up stunts to get some publicity — 
making speeches from horseback and so forth. 

One morning, I was sitting In my office and they 
came bursting In from Mrs. Blatch' s office and said to 
me, "You ride, don't you?" I said, "I haven't ridden 
since I left school." "But you do ride and you have a 
riding outfit?" Well, so-and-so — whatever the friend's 
name was — Is 111. The horses are already ordered 
and we're going to ride down to city hall park and make 
a speech, and you'll have to take her place." 

You didn't argue In suffrage. You took orders! 
I went home and put on my riding habit and came back. 
By the time I got back, the horses were dancing out on 
**2nd Street, very annoyed. I climbed on and they put 
big boards on the side of each horse announcing a meeting. 
Of course, the boards didn't please the horses; It hit 
them every time they moved. 

All the sidewalks were lined with people and the 
buses were going by. There was much shouting at us. 
The policemen were furious with us for glommlng up traffic. 

We got down to city hall park Just at noontime: it 
had been calculated that way. Everybody came out from 
their offices, and Nora made a pretty powerful speech 
from her horse. Mine was behaving very badly by then. 
I began to say, "Ladies and gentlemen," bouncing up and 
down. (They were English saddles and I'd never ridden 
in anything but an army or a Mexican saddle before.) 

Then, Just as I was launching Into my speech, I 
glanced across the square and there stood my astonished 
and astounded new husband. At that very moment, a 
horrible little office boy Jabbed a pin into my horse and 
she reared > I hung onto the front of this terrible 
English saddle and sawed on the curb bit and finally got 
the mare calmed down. But that was the end of my speech. 
We then took off back toward the office. 

Between all the excitement and the saddle sores 
from not having ridden in a long time, I was in bed for 
a day. That was a little difficult to explain — why 
suffragists had to make fools of themselves. 

Gluckt His reaction was primarily how foolish it was? 


Seller: Well, Just not caring to see his wife doing such things. 

Then, of course, we presently did another thing. 
They decided It would be nice to hire a motorboat and 
run up and down the shoreline yelling, "Suffrage votes 
for women," at all the men who were loading cargos. 

I was assigned along with Nora for this Job. Of 
course, we always took reporters with us when we did 
things. This time, women reporters evidently had re 
belled and we got two men, both of whom were definitely 
anti-suffrage and furious at the assignment. 

The man who was hired with the motorboat evidently 
had not been told what we were going to do. When we 
explained, he said, "Oh, what the men are going to say 
to you!" [Laughter 1 Of course, that was perfectly 
true. As "soon as the men began understanding that we 
were yelling about votes for women, they made replies 
that you might expect. 

Meantime, as ferry boats went by everybody rushed 
to the side of the boat and the waves bounced us up and 
down. Both reporters, I remember, had to ball us out 
with their hats - Just furious every minute. 

When we finally got back, Nora said, "Now see that 
you give us a good write-up." I looked all through the 
papers the next day. There was one tiny little paragraph 
in a column. 

A few days later I met one of the reporters who 
said he'd always hated suffragists. I said to him, "You 
certainly didn't do very well by us in the way of pub 
licity." And he said, "Well, next time, Just get your 
self drowned and I promise you the first page." [Laughter} 
So there were lots of funny things as well. 

Gluck: I vaguely recall — it may have been more than one 

occasion when one of these boats went up the river, but 
I do recall a picture of a boat with the "votes for 
women" banner along the side of it. That may have been 
an excursion that you were on. 

Seller: No. Ours was a small motorboat containing about six 

terrified people. No, but I don't doubt that they had 
other demonstrations. In those days, there were the so- 
called "small river boats" which went up the Hudson from 
New York to Albany, and I'm sure that they must have, at 
one time or another, had a demonstration on one. Wherever 


Seller: they were having county fairs or things of that kind, 
there would be a booth, and people speaking, and 
handing out literature and banners. 

Gluck: Did this motorboat that you were on have any signs at 

Seller: No, no, no. It was much too small. I would guess it 

was about ten or fifteen feet long; it was a very small 

Gluck: Did you have megaphones then? 

Seller: Yes, the yelling was done through megaphones. I 

acquired a good many four-letter words on that boat trip. 

Gluck: How long did the trip last, do you recall? 

Seller: Two or three hours. We were all exhausted and thought 
we were going to be submerged. A group of men going 
on a fishing trip thought that it was funny to annoy us; 
they went round us in circles, leaving each time tre 
mendous waves behind them until they almost swamped us. 
Then they decided that was maybe a little too much, and 
went away. Yes, there were lots of things like that. 

Gluck: Did your husband ever inarch with you in the parades? 

Seller: No, he never had anything to do with It at all. 
Gluck: Because I know there were men suffragists. 

Seller: Oh, yes, there were. I knew one of them — Witter Bynner 
— who was a poet and was one of the very early ones. 

I think there were about a hundred men that marched 
in the parade the year I went down from college to march. 
And believe me, they had courage! Whoohl There was no 
one that I knew who would have been there, but there 
were lots of really quite outstanding men who marched In 
those parades. 

Gluck: I have a photograph of a man waving from a car; I think 
it was that 1912 parade. There's a banner on the car 
saying "Men's something — 

Seller: That would have been the parade that I came down to inarch 
in the year before I graduated from college. 

Gluck: I think Floyd Dell was the one who was — 

Seller: Well, Floyd Dell — yes, I remember him now. It took 
so much more courage for a man to come out for woman 1 s 
suffrage than it did for a woman. They were quite 
remarkable . 

Clucks Your husband was not ant 1- suffrage? 
Seller: No, Just more or less Indifferent to It. 

Gluck: Were there particular people who seemed to dream up 
some of these things like with the boats and horses? 

Seller: I don't remember who was responsible for these Ideas* 
They were, of course, always trying to think of Ideas 
which would get us publicity. There were some women 
reporters who were very helpful to us — who tried to 
get us all the publicity they legitimately could. But 
of course, they didn't mind how ridiculous the thing 

Mrs. Blatch's whole Idea was that you must keep 
suffrage every minute before the public so that they're 
used to the idea and talk about It, whether they agree 
or disagree. It must be something that everybody was 
conscious of. I think she was quite right. 

Gluck: When you went on street corners, you actually had your 
own little box that you would set down? 

Seller: Yes. They were known among us as soap boxes. Each had 
a heavy handle on one end with which you carried the 
thing until you got to the corner. 

Of course, sometimes, depending on the neighbor 
hood, those were rather dangerous little times. Things 
were thrown down from roofs? sometimes stones were thrown 
Into the crowd. I don't remember anybody actually being 
seriously injured, but they weren't fun! 

Gluck: But there would be more than one of you usually going to 
these street meetings? 

Seller: There would be one speaker and one giving out pamphlets 

and things of that kind. Yes, as I recall it, there were 
always two. 

Gluck: It must have been quite unusual for women in those days 
to be speaking out on the street corners. 

Sellers Yes, of course! It vras considered outrageous by many 


Seller: people. 

Gluck: Did the women in the Women's Political Union use the 
argument of the moral superiority of women, which a 
lot of the suffragists used? 

Seller: I don't remember that. Of course, I don't know what 

all the individual women did in their street speeches. 
I don't remember that being borne down on much. I 
remember a great argument, following the same meeting 
at which I was supposed to write up the workers' meeting < 

I went home with a woman who had been a friend of 
my sister's, who was much more radical than I, and we 
fell into a discussion of the single standard. I 
remember it very well because I was a little shocked 
at the time. She said, "If we ever do get to have a 
single standard, it'll be the men's standard and not 
ours." She spoke from experience, and she was a news 
paper woman. I don't remember women's moral superiority 
being especially emphasized. 

In the first place, of course, we had this little 
ultra- radical group within the movement. I think it 
would have been a rather difficult argument to sustain. 
I certainly never used it in my speeches and I don't 
know whether other women did or not. 

Gluck: In some groups, the argument seems to have been that 

women should have the vote because they would clean up 
politics because they were morally on a higher plane. 

Seller: Perhaps some of them really thought that. I used often 
to bear down on what I still believe: that there were 
certain things affected by politics, about which men 
were relatively unfit to Judge, such as things that 
concerned children, schools, similar things. I felt 
women should have a much larger voice In controlling 
these things, and that there were Just naturally a whole 
lot of facets to be considered. 

I remember once going to make a speech somewhere, 
and on the way up there on the train, an Idea occurred 
to me and I used It. I picked up a copy of the evening 
paper and held It up in front of them, and took one 
headline after another, and showed how the things talked 
about in that headline applied to women. I went all 
the way across the front page and there wasn't a single 
thing in the news In which women didn't have a stake. 
That was the thing we tried to get over. 


Gluck: Was the attempt primarily to convince the men directly 
or to have women work on men they knew? 

Seller: We were supposed to do both. The speaking that I had 

most to do with was generally speaking with the Idea of 
reaching as many people as we could. Of course, there 
would always be a few, then, who would want to really do 
something for suffrage, and they could Join any organ 
ization they wanted to. I doubt very much that there 
was anything you could call a uniform policy. There was 
too much diversity of women involved; I don't think you 
could have (a uniform policy) . 

Gluck: So within the Speakers' Bureau, for Instance, you were 

concerned primarily In training women in terms of delivery 
rather than giving them ideas? 

Seller: Yes. Of course, naturally, there were a few ideas we 
talked about. "This is a good way to say this," and 
"This pamphlet will be useful for this, that, and the 
other thing." But, no, basically my Job was to show them 
how to speak more effectively and to assign them to set 
places where we needed speakers. 

Personalities and Politics 

Gluck: When you mention that Mrs. Blatch was autocratic, was 
this in terms of the way In which decisions were made, 
or the way she related to the other workers? 

Seller: Both, I would say. My sister might or might not agree 
with me, I don't know. Prom my point of view, she was 
very autocratic. 

Gluck: Did' you have any open conflicts with her over this, or 
was it Just a matter of being discomforted by it? 

Seller: I violently disapproved of some of her policies; con 
sidering that we were a women's organization, I felt 
that we should be especially fair in our treatment of 
employees and so forth.'* 

•"•Editor's Note: The interviewee was unwilling to make 
public the details of her disagreement with Mrs. Blatch 
and shifted, rather, to a more general discussion of the 
disposition of several suffrage figures. 


Soller: I think many (suffrage leaders) were very difficult 

to work wltn. Certainly Mrs. 0. H. P. Belmont had that 
reputation. I never worked for her. And, certainly, I 
think that Mrs. HLatch was. I don't think Mrs. Carrie 
Chapman Catt ever had that reputation; I never heard 
that she did. I think that she had very firm opinions, 
but I always gathered that she was a person rather easy 
to get on with. 

And, of course, Anna Howard Shaw was a wonderful 
person; she was never the head of any organization -- I 
don't think she ever wanted to be — but she was a 
marvelous person.* 

Gluck: Do you think it was because they were so single-minded 
about the issue? 

Seller: I don't know. You certainly have met plenty of what we 
colloquially call bossy women, and they are apt to be 
women with a great deal of drive, the women who get 
things done, and they are very apt to be so sure that 
they're right that they don't want to waste time hearing 
arguments against their point of view. I think it's 
quite understandable. 

Gluck: So actually, except for the National American Woman's 
Suffrage Association, almost all the other groups had 
that reputation. 

Seller: I had the feeling they didi certainly I heard people 
muttering about Mrs. Belmont. 

Gluck: She must have been formidable! 

Seller: [Laughter! I think she was, and certainly Mrs. Blatch 

* Editor's Note: Anna Howard Shaw did head the National 

American Woman's Suffrage Association, 1904-1914, when Carrie 

Chapman Catt returned and took it over. 


Gluck: When you went down to New York, your sister and 

brother were already there, and the plan was for your 
mother and you to go down. Had you also, by that time, 
planned to be married? 

Seller: Yes. I was married in October, and we first lived in 
the same apartmentas my mother and sister. 

Gluck: So for those first few months, you worked almost full 
time with the Women's Political League, and then after 
this falling out is when you decided to try and get 
another job. 

Seller: That's right. A friend of my sister's came and they 
were consulting about what kind of business. Among 
other things my sister, long before, had told me, 
"Don't ever, ever, ever study stenography. What man 
studied stenography to get started in his job? You'll 
just get sidetracked, so be sure to say you Just don't 
know it.'' So, I didn't have that to offer to anybody. 

I remember very well, this friend of my sister's 
said, "But you've been doing an awfully lot of writing 
this summer." You see, I had sent advance releases, 
and then when I got through in the town I gave them 
another big Interview and a release. So I had been 
doing a whole lot of publicity writing. The friend 
said, "Why don't you try the advertising business? You 
can write copy quite well." 

I didn't even know what advertising copy was; 
they had to explain to me that it was the text of the 
ad. She gave me a list of agencies and I called on 
some of them. I presume I looked exactly like Sis 
Hopkins, fresh down from the country. None of them 
were at all impressed. The agencies said they preferred 


Seller t people who had had retail experience - women, that Is. 

Then I tried some of the department stores; no, 
they didn't have any time to try to train anybody like 
that» By then I got quite annoyed o The only store I 
hadn't called on was l-lacy's. I went In and demanded 
to see the advertising manager and told him about my 
experience trying to get a Job in agencies and stores. 
And I said, "Now, I will come to work for you for ten 
dollars a week for two weeks. At the end of that time, 
both you and I ought to know whether I can write 
advertising copy." He was so flabbergasted that he 
hired me. At the end of two weeks, they were running 
the copy the way it was written. So then it became a 
real job. 

Gluck: This was about 
Seller: Yes. 

Gluck: When you went into the advertising work at I-lacy's, did 
you continue the suffrage work at all? 

Seller: I made speeches occasionally, but that was all. I was 
no longer speaker coordinator. That was a full-time 
job and I was pretty busy. 

Interruption; Family Life 

Gluck : 

Gluck : 


And then you stayed at Hacy's for how long? 

I think about six months. Then I got pregnant. My 
daughter was born in January of 1915* So I must have 
gotten pregnant quite soon, but I didn't quit right 

Had you intended to have a family? 

I don't think I ever thought about it one way or the 
other. I certainly hadn't planned to have one at that 

I was then out of business until my daughter was 
about two and a half. 

What ws your life like during that period when you 
weren 7 worKingv y erc you Involved outside of ;he home 

Gluck: or were you involved primarily with your baby? 

Seller: No. I was involved basically with the baby. We had 
moved out of my mother and sister's apartment, and we 
went to East Orange. Things were very tight. I've 
forgotten what my husband's salary was, but it was tiny, 
Of course, everything cost less in those days. My 
house allowance was five dollars, I remember, for food, 
and I wasn't a very good provider - knowing nothing 
whatever about it. We had always had servants of some 
kind or another, and I just never did have anything to 
do with running a house. 

When it got to be Friday, I remember nearly always 
Tie had to have cabbage because it was only five cents 
a head. 

Combining Career and Mot herhood 

Gluck: Tell me about your decision to return to work. 

Seller: I remember very well the day my sister said to me, 

fixing upon me a beady eye, "When are you getting back 
to business?" I, of course, felt mildly surprised, to 
say the least, and said, "How can I?" She said,' "You 
should manage." 

Presently, there became vacant an apartment right 
across the hall in the place she was living with my 
mother. She immediately said, "This is the opportunity 
to move back here; then Mother can help and it will be 
much easier for you to get a maid." So that's what we 

She really shamed me into going back to work. I 
didn't think it was possible but discovered, of course, 
It was. 

Gluck: To both work and have the young child? 

Seller: Yes. It was difficult, I have to say. Our apartment 
had these deep window seats, and I had to walk every 
morning past that front window on my way to the subway 
to work. My small daughter used to stand up in the 
window with the tears running down her cheeks, and I 

Seller: used to feel like a dirty dog. It was very difficult. 

And yet, I did think It was the right thing to do. 
I made a special arrangement with the agency when I 
went with them, that I would go home at three o'clock 
every day. So, that was the only concession to It. 

When I went back, that's when I decided I didn't 
want to go back to the department store field. I did 
try Facy's first, and. I told them I wouldn't work after 
three o'clock in the afternoon (because that's when the 
baby came home from the park). Well, they couldn't 
hear of that. "You can have hours off in the middle of 
the day, " said one of them, who would like to have had 
me, "but you've got to be here to sign out with the 
rest of the employees, and sign in." I said, "Well, 
I'm going." 

So then I began on the agencies again. Now, of 
course, I had a lot of good copy samples and I didn't 
any longer look like Sis Hopkins but most of them would 
hear nothing about leaving at three o'clock in the 
afternoon; that was out. 

I got to one agency called the Federal Advertising 
Agency. It had nothing to do with the federal government; 
it had been named that because of the building they 
happened to be in. They had started out basically as a 
trade agency and were developing In the consumer field, 
and they'd never had women except as file clerks or 

When I said this about three o'clock in the after 
noon, the head of the copy department considered it 
awhile and then said, "Well, we've never had a woman on 
the staff; might as well try it. I like your copy." 
So I was taken on to work only until three. 

After I'd been there some thirty years and they 
were giving me a testimonial dinner, one of the vice- 
presidents stood up and said, "Well, I discovered in the 
records of the accounting department the other day that 
you were hired on a temporary basis. I would like to 
suggest that you be put on the permanent payroll. 

Up until World War II, I never did work past three 
o'clock in the afternoon! I enjoyed it. I could, by 

Seller: condensing my lunch hour, always go to matinees and 
do all kinds of things . It was very pleasant . Then 
when personnel problems grew so difficult In World War 
II, of course, I was working »til all hours myself. 

Gluck: Did you remain one of the few women writing copy In the 

Seller: No, After a relatively short time at copywriting, I 

was made Tihat they called an account executive and did 
some copy still but edited other people's copy. Then 
I eventually was made a vice-president and the head of 
a department, mostly handling women's things, but not 

I was extraordinarily fortunate. I sometimes 
think I worked for the only advertising agency I ever 
could have worked for. I did have complete authority. 
The president discovered, after a few years, if he'd 
Just let me alone, I would make money for him. So he 
did exactly that. I was responsible to no one but my 
clients, really. 

I sent him memos about what we had decided to do 
but rarely consulted him in advance. As I discovered 
in the course of my life, there were practically no 
other women in the advertising business who had any 
such degree of authority. 

In the big agencies, for instance, one or two 
who flirted with me later on, I discovered that every 
thing was a la committee; the plan went up heieand had 
to be approved, and went up again and had to be approved. 
Of course, I couldn't possibly have worked that way. I 
discussed things with my clients, and came back and 
dictated the work reports, and got their okays on the 
estimates, and that was itl I wasn't discussing it with 
anybody, except occasionally with the research department. 

This was very unusual, I must say. I began to 
appreciate how unusual it was, because sometimes my 
clients were the bosses of the women who were supposed 
to have authority. I knew, of course, from my work with 
their bosses that they didn't. That was particularly 
true of the women In the fashion group who were always 
supposed to be sort of heads in their own particular 
departments. But I discovered in working with them that 

Seller: all the things they did had to be okayed, and I grew 
gradually to realize how unusual my opportunity was. 

I became a stockholder, eventually, and I was 
never really tempted to go to another agency. 

Gluck: You stayed in that agency until you retired? 

Seller: Yes. 

Gluck: Were other women brought in? 

Seller: Yes. Eventually, we had plenty of other women. Many 
were in the copy department. I had several executive 
assistants. Also women in other departments like 
research who were assigned to me from time to time. 

Gluck: Did you become Involved in any professional organi 
zations, then, in those early days of your career? 
Were there enough women in that field to have — 

Seller: I belonged fairly early to the Women's Fashion Group? 
that was necessary. I was never much of a Joiner, I 
must say. I belonged to a certain number of business 
things, like the American Marketing Association, and 
all that sort of stuff. I belonged to a couple of 
clubs but they had nothing to do with business, such 
as the Women's City Club and the Town Hall Club. 

Gluck: Were any of them groups that were involved — after 
the ratification, there was that Women's Joint Con 
gressional Committee. 

Seller: Mo. I also belonged to two clubs - all women - which 
were entirely different. How shall I say it? They 
were made up of women who definitely were the suffrage 
type of women. There used to be a very interesting club 
of unusual women to which my sister belonged. One of 
these women had a big fuss with the head of that club 
(you can imagine they were all women with minds of their 
oxtti) and she broke off and formed another organization. 
Later on — it had been going for some years — my 
friend, Blair lilies, Insisted on my joining that. It 
called Query Club. 

It was an extremely interesting club because of 
the women who belonged to it. Most of them were writers 

Seller: one woman was an explorer. They were all quite well- 
known women, as a matter of fact. A very interesting 

The other one was more of a debating club. For 
a while I belonged to the Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 
New York, but I got bored with that very quickly; I 
didn't do that very long. I never have been much of 
a joiner. 

Main tain ing the Suffrage Ties 

Gluck: Did you continue your suffrage speaking right up until 
the passage of federal legislation? 

Sellers No, I took time off and spoke continuously for the last 
two weeks before the final campaign. But before that 
I had Just spoken occasionally when they needed a 
speaker, especially in the evening. 

Gluck: Was this the campaign prior to the passage of the 
amendment or during the ratification drive? 

Seller: No, it was — now let me be sure about this. Of course, 
New York had not ratified it. I wonder if that wasn't 
when we were working on New York to ratify it, and lost. 

I must have worked both times, then, because I do 
remember that there was a vast celebration when we 
finally had it (the federal amendment) approved. 
Tennessee, I think, was the last one. But that spread 
over a long period of time, and my daughter would have 
been five when that happened. She was much younger than 
that when I took the time off. I think it must have 
been when we were trying to get it (a state measure) 
ratified in Mew York State. 

Yes, I'm sure it was that because I well remember 
the attitude of men - both in my office, in the subway 
and on the street - the morning after the state measure 
was defeated. They openly jeered! 

Gluck: When it was known in your office that you were a suffra 
gist, did you have difficulties before that occasion? 

Seller: No. 

Gluck : 

Gluck : 



Gluck : 

But once It had been given public approval for defeat, 
then It was all right to — 

Oh yes. I'd never had any discussion about It before. 
But there were two or three men In my office who took 
occasion to make disparaging remarks the morning after 
wards. "Well, I guess we know what we did to you 
yesterday! " and that kind of thing. But It was a very 
passing phase. 

So you did keep some sort of active ties still? 

Yes, because my sister [Elizabeth Ellsworth Cook] was 
still, of course, vice-president of the organization. 

Did your sister pursue a career? 

Oh yes, and such a career! In Wall Street. She had a 
very long one. She didn't retire from Wall Street till 
she was an old lady. She still had her own clients in 

a brokerage house until she was eighty- four, 
eighty-eight. She's down In Florida. 

She's now 

Do you recall your own reactions when Alice Paul and 
her group started their campaign in Washington (In 191?)? 

I don't ever remember being disapproving because I 
understood quite well the reasons that she did It. I 
remember being very horrified at what was done to the 
women - especially to this very delightful woman from, 
I think, Ghautauqua County whom I had enlisted in suffrage 
and who was one of the hunger strikers. 

I think everybody was Just sort of nauseated over 
the whole thing; it was so horrible. But I don't ever 
remember disapproving of it, except for thinking that 
it was a dreadful thing for the women to go through. 
But I also felt that it was a very daring and probably 
a very valuable demonstration. 

After the passage of the (Nineteenth) Amendment and 
once Alice Paul's group started on the Bqual Rights 
Amendment, were you at all Interested or involved In 
that campaign? 

Gluck : 
Gluck : 


Seller: Not involved at all. By then I was already In the 
advertising "business — very busy, a child. No, I 
had nothing whatever to do with that beyond being 
Interested, of course, by what I read. 

So after the actual ratification drive, you pretty much • 
"othing whatever. 

And did the Women's Political Union survive after the 

If it did, I don't have any recollection of It. Of 
course, after I fussed with Mrs. Blatch and departed 
from them and when I went into business, I no longer was 
as close to them, organizationally speaking. As I say, 
I spoke occasionally for them when they needed a speaker. 

But I don't remember. I can't Imagine that they 
would have stayed as an organization because there 
wouldn't have been anything for them to do, If you want 
to put it that way. At that time, I think it hadn't 
occurred to a great many women that once they got the 
vote, the rest wouldn't be easy. I think most men felt 

I remember once, when watching at the polls, I was 
talking to a Tammany boss who was also watching, and he 
said, "Of course I'm opposed to women's suffrage! once 
women get the vote, they can get practically anything 
else they want." 

And that was more or less that attitudes it didn't 
occur to them that women were going to break up as soon 
as the vote was won. They let their organizations go 
and most of them paid no further attention. A very few 
of them, of course, began to work in politics, but I 
think they were few and far between. From what I know, 
at least. 

Gluck: Yes. The information that I have read was that up until 
about 1925 i the politicians still thought that there was 
a woman's block. After that, it became obvious there 
was not and they really paid no heed to any legislation 
that the women were Interested In. 

In the forties, then, there seemed to be another 
upsurge and then a real push again for the Equal Rights 

Gluck: Amendment, and many of the women's clubs seemed to 
be involved then. 

Seller: No, I never did. 

Gluck: You were divorced in what year? 

Seller: Nineteen twenty-eight. 

Gluck: And then you remarried in — 

Seller: Nineteen twenty-nine. 

In and Out of Retirement 





So you stayed at the Federal Advertising Agency con 
tinuously until f 



Yes, it was '*l-8 that I left Federal; in June I guess. 

Were you living in Mew York City up until that time, 

I went right on living in New York City, yes. With a 
week-end place in the country. 

During that five or six years — that first retirement 
— you stayed in New York City? 


What were your activities during that time period? By 
then your daughter was grown and, I imagine, gone, 
wasn't she? 

During that first period of retirement, is that 
when you became Involved In some of that activity? 

Ilo. In the first place, * was utterly worn out» it took 
a long, long time to recover. I don't think I did much 
but a little writing here and there. 

Did you continue your public speaking in all of those 

I did quite a lot during my years in business. I had 


to talk very often to boards of directors and things 
of that kind which you may or may not consider public 
speaking, but it falls into the sane group. Once I 
went up to Cornell to speak to the coeds. And once I 
remember going to Philadelphia to address an advertising 
group, and things like that, but nothing else special. 

I had no idea of going back when I retired: I was 
worn out with the whole advertising business and I 
stayed home for six years. One day, one of my old 
clients — one of my smaller clients, as a matter of 
fact — called me up and was bitterly unhappy with his 
agencies and had been ever since I retired. He asked 
if I would meet him at the Union League Club; he wanted 
to talk to me about something. 

I went, and he had his general manager there. He 
said, "I'm about to go to Europe on a buying trip and 
you can think about it while I'm gone, but I wish you'd 
go to some small agency — anyone you pick — and make 
an arrangement with them to work only when you want to 
and as much as you want to, and take my account to them." 

So I thought about it. I had been fairly bored 
in the meantime, I may say. And so I did Just that. 
I didn't go in at all in the months of July and Augut — 
we had a place out in the country — and I worked about 
three days a week the other months, perhaps four or 
five hours a day; whatever was necessary to handle his 
account, basically. I did some other things for them, 
too. That was for four years. 


Then my husband was ready to retire and so I went 

Retirement Life Style 

Gluck: Did you get involved in any other kinds of activities 
during that time, after that retirement? 

Seller: No. We began to travel then» we travelled a great deal, 
mostly in Europe because my husband is a European and 
we had most of our friends over there. We'd always been 
going back and forth. 

Right after he retired we spent the winter studying 

Seller: at the Institute de Allende In Mexico. Then we spent 
the summer in Bucks County at our place. The next 
year we went out to make up our minds whether we wanted 
to live out here in California and drove all over 
California. Then in '60, we went abroad for a year 
until the Mount San Antonio Gardens was built, because 
we had ordered a cottage there. 


Gluck: I'd like to explore now some of your ideas during the 
suffrage period. First, for clarificatlon t did you 
call yourselves suffragettes or suffragists. 

Seller: I would say a suffragist is the way we spoke of our 
selves. It was mostly the newspapers, I think, that 
called us suffragettes. 

Gluck: Was that an attempt to put the movement down, do you 

Seller: I think so, yes. 

Gluck: Did you define yourself in those early days as a 

Seller: I don't really think I ever — I think it wouldn't have 
occurred to me to call myself a feminist. When you 
said feminist, I thought of people like Olive Schrelner 
and Mrs. Pankhurst, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and so 

Gluck i How do you see them as being different? 

Seller: How shall I say it? Being so interested in the one 
thing that they hardly had time for other things. I 
think always, all my life — Just like my courses in 
college — I have always wanted to be interested in a 
great many things. Of course, that's the reason they 
got things done — because they did channel all of their 
Interests in one direction. 

No, I never thought of myself as a feminist. In 
fact, all my life — until I was retired — I had more 
men friends than women. This was partly because of my 
choice of business. And I always got on ertremely well 


Seller: with them (men). I have ascribed that, truly or not, 
to the fact that I grew up in my grandfather's house i 
my mother had left my father when I was about six 
months old and I never laid an eye on him until I was 
about eight. My grandfather was elderly, then, and 
there was never any question of a dominating male. I 
grew up with absolutely no feeling of having been put 
down, as it were, by a male, and I never have felt that 
way. Consequently, I don't have any of the bitterness 
that many women, I'm sorry to say, in women's lib have. 

Gluck: You associate the word "feminist " with a rather bitter, 
anti-male feeling, then? 

Seller: I think I did, in spite of the fact that my sister was 
very popular also with boys. But I never thought of it, 
really, in college. I discovered very early that if you 
danced well and skated well — and I was a fancy skater 
— and did such things, that boys were also very pleased 
to discover that you could think. I was never brought 
up to feel that you had to pretend to be an imbecile to 
be attractive. I always got the kind of response I 

The same thing was true in business. I can only 
remember twice when there was an attempt made to what 
you would call "put me down." 

One of them, oddly enough, came about In a very 
curious way. I had become a little distressed at how 
rapidly the things we learned in college became obsolete. 
I wrote up to the president of Cornell and suggested that 
perhaps when twenty- five year reunions came around it 
might be a very good idea to set aside at least one day 
and arrange (workshops) with the heads of departments — 
particularly the scientific departments, in which the 
changes had been greatest — so that the alumni could 
be brought up to date. And they could say, "This is 
what you were taught in physics when you were in college; 
this is what we think now." 

He thought It was a good idea, and he wrote down 
to the man who was the chairman of the twenty-five year 
reunion of men that year who came to call on me. He 
listened in a rather supercilious way to this Idea, and 
when I was all through he said, "Where did you get the 
idea?" I said, "The same place where most of my ideas 
come from — out of my own head. Good evening." I was 

Seller: That is one of the few times I can remember. 

Otherwise, I have always found men very open and 
willing to moot you on your own grounds. 

Gluck: So you saw feminists as responding to men's attitudes 
towards women. What about other ideas they held, for 
instance on marriage? 

Seller: I used to think it was rather funny. Some of the 

English women who cane over, Beatrice Forbes-Robertson 
and people like that, there was a great deal of talk 
among them. I don't ever recall very much of this among 
the American women, but the English women were very fond 
of talking about free unions; their children were going 
to have hyphenated names. Like Bavelock Ellis and his 
T'/ife — they were going to have houses on opposite sides 
of the park. 

They were very Interested, and they felt that the 
conventional marriage was not right, wasn't fair to 

I was a little more conservative about things at 
the time and I felt the family had a place in society, 
and I didn't go along with that. I thought It was kind 
of funny. But they took it all very, very seriously, 
you know. There was a whole cult of that sort of thing, 
especially in England. I think not to any great extent 

I did meet a few women living in Greenwich Village 
at the time whom ray sister knew, who were living with 
men without being married to them. You know, there was 
a certain amount of talk about it but they were still 
very valuable suffragists. They weren't making as much 
propaganda about Ifc, as the English women were. The 
attitudes of the English women reflected, of course, 
the much more difficult position, I think, of women in 
England than In America; American women have always had 
more freedom. 

You may or may not recall that famous little curtain 
raiser of Ethel Barrymore's called "The Twelve Pound 
Look." That was marvelous. It played in England. The 
twelve pound look was the cost of the typewriter with 
which the woman made herself economically Independent 
from her husband - left him as soon as she learned to 
type. The twelve pound look. 


Gluck : 




Gluck : 

But ideas about women's economic Independence you 
didn't see as being the crucial distinction between, 
say, a feminist and a suffragist? 

I don't recall ever being concerned with that. 

Were these women you met identified as the Greenwich 
Village suffragists — femin^bs — like Henrietta 
Rodman and those women? 


Were these women known to you In terms of their Ideas , 
or was it primarily through your sister that you knew 
about those women? 

I think I met some of them, but they wore all somewhat 
older. They were basically friends of my sister's. 

She was somewhat on the fringes of what was actually 

the feminist movement? 

Very definitely, 
feminist o 

I would always have called her a 

She did all kinds of things. I mean, she started 
the Women's Bond Club, as I recall it, on Wall Street; 
she was really quite prominent. 

As far as what she thinks now in her innermost 
mind, I don't know. But at least In her expressions of 
opinion, I feel that she has changed very much. I 
wouldn't consider her even a liberal anymore* 

Gluck: That's the kind of thing we have found with several 
women. It seems like what you're saying is that you 
never fought any of the other battles that women who 
were defined as feminists were fighting, like equal pay 
and so forth? 

Seller: Ho, I can't say that I did. 

Once or twice, other agencies flirted with me a 
little. I remember I had a long session with the wife of 
the president of J. Walter Thompson. I used to know her 
in suf frac^ before her marriage, and vre had lunch together 
occasionally . One flay she sounded me out about business, 
and I inquired about the way they worked. I Just said 
it was not for me. 

Seller: I had a very odd relationship, you might say, 

with my job, and I knew it. I think I wouldn't have 
lasted In any other kind of job, frankly. In the 
first place, 1 was the first woman they'd ever had ex 
cept for a file clerk. They put me on as a copywriter, 
and then very quickly made me an account executive. 
And the president discovered quite soon — in about 
five years — that if he just left me alone, I would 
make money for him. So he practically never interfered. 
I mean, it reached the stage where I never any longer 
consulted him about what I was going to say to the 
client or what we were going to do; I wrote him a memo 
afterwards and told him what had been decided. 

That amount of freedom — real authority — I 
began to discover was almost unknown among women. 

Gluck: One of the things that I found very interesting about 
several of the women who were involved in suffrage was 
the assumption that they would be self-supporting, and 
one of the things I've tried to pursue Is, if this was 
tied into the ideas about suffrage and women's rights, 
or if it was Just an attitude that you had acquired 
in growing up in your grandfather's household. 

Seller: I would suspect that the emphasis on that must have 
come probably from my sister and from separate ideas. 
I don't think there would have been anything about it 
growing up in grandfather's house. In fact, I would 
think that the whole attitude of the family at that 
point would have been that you married and stayed home 
and had children. And, if you were a maiden aunt you 
would stay always In the home. I think it was assumed 
that my Aunt Lil would always live in my grandfather's 
house. I would say that was the pattern of a perfectly 
orthodox Episcopal family. 

Gluck: So that, even though you. had felt that — part of it 
was just the economics of it, by the time you were in 
school . 

Seller: Yes. But part of It, unquestionably was that my sister 
would never have allowed me to think of living without 
doing some work. I must truthfully say that I some 
times wonder — I wrote my sister this a while ago — 
I think she had a groat deal to do actually with my 
persisting and having a career; because It woulr? have 
ber\i very easy for m^ to give up after I had a baby. In 
fact, I remember quite clearly when the baby was about 
• a year and a half old, ray sister said to me one day, 


Seller: "When are you planning to go back to work?" I looked 
somewhat taken aback, and she said, "Well, It's time 
you should." 

So, the next thing she did was to find us an 
apartment in New York right across the hall from hers 
and my mother's; and we moved back to New York from 
East Orange which, of course, made it very much simpler. 
I was very lucky; I had a marvelous black from Virginia 
who was with us for — Emma first came to work for me 
when I lived in East Orange. She told me afterwards 
that I was the only woman for whom she ever washed in 
the morning and cleaned all the afternoon /laughter/ - 
because I knew nothing whatsoever about domestic things. 
I really didn't, and I don't know what I would have 
done. Mother, as I recall it, paid for me to have Emma 
once a week. 

When we moved back to New York, we had another 
woman who proved to be no good at all. I begged Emma 
and she consented to come and stayed with us the time 
my baby was growinsr up. She was marvelous. 

Gluck: Your sister was really a very important role model for 
you from very early days. 

Seller: Definitely. Looking back, I realize how great an 

influence she had. For instance, I don't think I ever 
would have taken public speaking in college if it hadn't 
been for my sister. She won the prize for the Woodford 
Oration which is an original oration. The title of her 
oration was "Ken, Women and Human Beings." 

I came along and survived the competition and was 
on what they call "the stage." In other words, I was one 
of the eight speakers on both the Eighty-Sixth Memorial 
and the Woodford Oration. But I didn't win either one 
of them, much to my sister's chagrin. My title for my 
original oration was "Crimes Against Criminals." I had 
spent quite a lot of time down on the East Side with my 
sister, seeing what went on, and also quite a lot of time 
in the night court. 

Gluck: That was when you were still at Cornell, then? 

Seller: It was. It was when I spent the summer with my sister 
between my junior and senior years. 

Gluck: Because you talked about being a reporter for some paper 
and going to the night court, and I wasn't sure what time 
period that was. I see. 


Gluck : 


Gluck : 


That's right. 

There was no problem In terms of your husband's 
attitude towards your pursuing a career? 

No, I don't think It ever occurred to him. He was a 
charming man, a very gentle one, and a very open- 
minded one - a very good natured person. I don't 
think, left to himself, that It would ever have 
occurred to him to advocate suffrage, but he was not 
against my doing It, and he never made any fuss (about 
my working). Of course, I think he was probably rather 
pleased; he wasn't getting a very big salary In those 
days, and it was quite helpful to have a second salary. 

Also, of course, it was the example of my sister 
who had gone ahead and done it and was getting to be 
quite well knwon in Wall Street. 

Was your sister's Influence as a result of your 
admiration for her, or was she also quite direct in 
letting you know how she felt your life should be lived? 

No, she was not aggressive, if that's what you mean — 
no, I wouldn't say do. But to her, of course, the 
arguments are absolutely unanswerable. She Just is and 
always was a feminist. So, I would say probably — I 
might and might not — my daughter thinks that I would 
have climbed the walls if I had tried to stay home. 
I've sometimes wondered if I would have gone back into 
business if my sister hadn't urged me. 



Gluck» What are your reactions towards the modern women's 
movement — some of your feelings about It and how 
you think It compares to the original suffrage move 
ment • 

Seller: It's very hard to compare It because It's so much 

wider and deeper a movement than suffrage. That was 
really a political Job, and it was handled like a 
political job, more or less. But this seems to me to 
Involve — how shall I put It? This movement now, 
I think, springs from much, much deeper grounds than 
the suffrage movement. It involves really women's 
estimate of themselves and what they feel they could 
contribute to the world. Also, I think that whereas 
women felt it definitely unfair that they couldn't 
vote I think now women conceive of the inequality as 
something a great deal more serious than a personal 
affront. They realize that it has a lot to do with 
the kind of world we have and the mess we're in, and 
that the only valid hope for the future lies In true 

As you know, and as I've told you before, I think 
women have a lot of changing to do too. I listen with 
horror at the chic hat that goes on in a normal group 
of women, and I'm not surprised that men make snide 
remarks about "girl talk." 

That isn't the kind of thing that is Involved in 
the present movement. I blame it mostly on the fact 
that I mostly see women in my own age group — they're 
not going to change, and most of them are quite horrified, 
I think, at the changes the younger women want. Of course, 
it just so happens that I go along with the younger 
women, so I mostly have to keep my mouth shut. 

Gluck: How about your own daughter? What sort of attitudes 


Gluck: does she have towards the women's movement? 

Seller: I don't think she's at all Interested. She's made a 
marvelous career herself, but she Is entirely wrapped 
up in art: I don't think anything in the world exists 
actually outside of It. She does read the papers and 
probably Time and the New Yorker, but I don't think 
she spends very much of her time thinking about the 
world affairs In general. I think she's mostly 
basically concerned with her own immediate problems. 

Gluck: Would you say, in terms of the way you depicted the 

modern women's movement, that in some ways it's similar 
to the ideas of the women in that early movement who 
were considered the feminists? 

Seller: Yes. I think this movement that's going on now goes 

back to the roots. And they wrote very well. I don't 
know how much of Charlotte Perkins Oilman you've ever 
read, but she writes well. Olive Schreiner, of course, 
I always think of with special feeling because I felt 
that she, of perhaps all of them, had the least bitter 
ness; she thought of it in terms of what it could become. 
I also felt that she was very much fairer to men. 

I can't help reminding women that up to the time 
that the suffrage amendment was ratified, every single 
thing that American women had legally in terms oT~ 
consideration was given them by men. They had no way to 
get it. I think they were very unappreciatlve of how 
much they had actually been given because of men's own 
sense of justice. That's one reason I get very impatient 
with them when they are too bitter. Perhaps if I'd had 
a different kind of life and different associations with 
men, I too would feel bitter. But I don't and I think 
it's a great drawback because, as I have written my 
daughter, I look on bitterness as a kind of cancer of the 
heart. I think you get nowhere with it, and it's one of 
the most deadly things that one can give way to. 

Gluck: So you s^e that as one of the major fallings, then. 

Seller: Yes, I definitely do. I'm astonished by some of the 

things I read. Now, how much they've been blown up by 
the media, of course, one doesn't know. And I'm far from 
saying that I'm silly enough not to know that a great 
many women have ample reason for the bitterness they feel. 
But I think it's a defect when you're working for equality. 

Gluck: Do you think that bitterness is quite new? 

Seller: Wo. 

Gluck: Do you think that women felt that earlier and Just 
didn't express It? 

Seller: No. Many women felt very bitter in suffrage days — 
many of them, and with good reason. But It's never a 
help; that's my feeling about It. 

Gluck: I feel that It seems to be the first step and then you 
get beyond It. I think many women haven't figured out 
where you go from there. 

Seller: Ilaybe , maybe. It's possible. 

Gluck: Are there any other comments or reactions about the 

modem women's movement, or comparisons that you might 

Seller: I'm not particularly eager to make unkind comments about 
them. I have every sympathy with their goals. 

Gluck: Your major criticism seems to be related to the issue of 
bitterness and sometimes focusing on issues that you 
think are not as important or as relevant. 

Seller: Yes, and when I hear them speak, I find so many of them 
strident and disagreeable. Well you know, I'm sure. 
I've heard Jessie (llaver Butler) rave on about what goes 
on in the NOW meetings. She also is repelled, I think, 
by a great deal of it . 

It's the old, old story. People don't really get 
outside themselves enough. I get very Impatient with 
their bringing up Individual grievances about things. 
I don't understand why they don't work more through 
groups of women. I have very definite ideas about what 
they could be doing with groups of women that, as I see 
it, they are not doing. 

Women's groups seem to feel that they have to 
operate in a vacuum. If they belong to one little group 
that's dedicated to doing this particular thing, they're 
not at all concerned with what's going on out here and 
around. I think that's all wrong for this movement of 
women. I think that every woman's group has a stake In 
this movement, even though they are not organized to 
fight for it. 

I don't care what the Individual's special Interest 


Seller: is in that group, they should have an overall 

Interest in all women. And every organization speaks 
with a louder voice than its Individual members, so 
that if a group which is especially interested in this 
movement could only learn how important it is to 
approach other groups and say to them, "Look — we 
know that you have to give ninety-nine percent of your 
time to your project, but how about, Just this once, 
writing a letter as an organization regarding this 
women's movement." I think they'd be rather surprised 
at the network of influence they could build up. 

Glucks That is what happened in suffrage, basically. 

Seller: Yes, it did. We had a great deal of that. I'm amazed 

that modern women don't do more of it. They don't, from 
my point of view, make very good use of women as a 
whole. I mean, the small number of women that are ever 
going to get Involved with NOW as compared with the 
number that sympathize with the overall alms and would 
be glad to lend their hands, perhaps, to advocate the 
passage of a specific bill or something of that kind. 

Gluck: In other words, to form coalitions with other women's 

Seller: Exactly. Not to expect that they're going to spend much 
time on it, but that they are a group of women (some of 
them will have had jobs, most of them). They can take a 
vote and will probably be sympathetic to doing this little 
bit for equality, and it would add up to a great deal. 

Gluck: I sometimes marvel at the fact that — - even though it 

was a safer issue since it didn't challenge a lot of other 
values of society — suffrage did manage ultimately to 
Include over two million in its ranks, in terms of support. 
I wonder how we can now do that for a battle that really 
is, as you say, much deeper and will have much wider 
Impact, I think. 

Seller: It was quite interesting when we were doing the organizing, 
of course, to see which women in these very small towns, 
could be interested. In general, it was, the women with 
better educations. Once in a while, you got a woman from 
the blue collar group, but not very often. And in some 
cases, you got women whose husbands definitely were not 
crazy about suffrage at all? they Just said, "Well, if 
you want to, go ahead," even though they didn't really go 
along with it . 





But they were mostly very substantial women — 
those who were willing to come right out for suffrage 
and form a suffrage group. That, of course, was my 
job — to leave a functioning branch which would carry 
on with whatever they were asked to do from headquarters. 

Do you see that as a difference In the two movements, 

In terms of, In a sense, the greater range of background? 

I think this Involves all women, and I think that In a 
curious way, women recognize that, even though they get 
awfully mad about the thing. Even the older ones who 
want to hang on to everything they have and not let 
anything go — even they, I think, have a certain 
sympathy with It. I have always felt that's why they are 
so nlt-picklng about the smaller things. In a way, I do 
It myself talking to you about the subjects they discuss. 
In a sense, that's nit-picking too. I Just feel that it's 
a mistake, that they're antagonizing a lot of people by 
(some of the things they do), and they shouldn't Just 
out of pure wisdom. 

It's perfectly true that marriage has been one of 
our most stable institutions, but that's no reason that 
it can't be re-examined in the light of our present-day 
situation, and especially now that there is so much 
clamor for a decrease in population. I think it's awfully 
silly the way many women talk about these things. 

However, to the young people belongs the future, and 
whether the older generation likes it or not, these 
things are all going to be re-examined and re-arranged. 
At the moment, of course, I don't see very much possibility 
of creating a permissive Institution which can offer the 
stability that marriage has offered us. But I think it's 
going to be a very unhappy environment for children, if 
we marry and divorce at such a rate as we're doing now. 

It is tough for children. They have enough things 
to learn about the world, without having to adapt them 
selves overnight to a completely changed environment; 
it's very difficult. 

So I would hope that a good many people would try out 
— I've forgotten; they have a nice name now for the 
marriage that isn't legal. What Is it? There's a 
colloquial name for it. At any rate, the Swedes, after 
all, have done this for years, tried out the thing first. 
Fine. But after they've tried it out, I would hope that 
people who had lived together for three or four years and 


Seller: found it companionable, they would go and get married 
before they have children, because it seems awfully 
tough on the children to have their homes changed by 
divorce. Those are things the younger generation are 
going to work out for themselves. 

Gluck: Despite some of your criticisms, you really do whole 
heartedly endorse the efforts of the modem women's 
movement • 

Seller: Yes, I do. I think it's ridiculous that they shouldn't 
participate. I'm very happy that we succeeded in elect 
ing the other day that nice Mrs. Cohen to our council here 
in Claremount; I don't know her personally, but I've 
heard a lot about her. We are now getting more women 
all around. Of course, getting them in where their faces 
show isn't the answer until they get some real authority 
and knowledge. 

There is something to be said for the fact — and 
big organizations say it with regard to minorities — 
that one of their troubles is not so much unwillingness 
as it is to find qualified applicants; the same is true 
of women . 

Gluck: I think that certainly has changed in many areas now, 
and has very quickly changed in terms of the areas 
women are going into. 

Seller: I do hope there is going to be a considerable change in 
the vocational advice that's handed out, beginning way 
back. Kuch earlier than college; certainly in Junior 
high and on up. There isn't any reason on earth way 
girls shouldn't plan — if they find they're especially 
good at mathematics, for goodness sake, then let them be! 
Let them take part in the new technology, if they actually 
fit it. 


INDEX - Laura Ellsworth Seller 

Belmont, Mrs. O.K. P., 24, 37 

Blatch, Harriet Stanton, 22-25, 29-30, 36-37 

Blatch, Nora, 5, 8-9, 12, 31 


and marriage, 39-41 

expectations, 11-12 
Catt, Carrie Chapman, 37 
clubs, professional women's, 43-44 
Cornell, 1, 7-9, 11-15 
Cornell Suffrage Club, 9, 13-15 

feminism, 50-53, 58 
Kelley, Florence, 26-27 

marriage, attitudes toward, 51-52, 61 
men, attitudes toward, 6, 50-52, 58 

National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) , 24 
National Woman's Party (NWP) , 25, 45 

Pankhurst, Emmeline, 24 
Paul, Alice, 24-25 

Shaw, Anna Howard, 27, 37 
Sanger, Margaret, 27-28 

woman's suffrage: 

arguments for, 18, 35 

attitudes of men toward suffrage, 44-46 

men, as suffragists, 33-34 

organizing techniques, 16-20, 22, 30-36 

relationship between groups, 24-25, 27-28 

relationships between women in suffrage groups, 28-29, 36-37 

relationship to other social movements, 27 
women, position of, 26, 52 
Women's Political Union (WPU) , 12-13, 16-20, 23, 27-36, 46 

See also Blatch, Harriet Stanton 
women's liberation movement, 57-61 

Feminist History Research Project Regional Oral History Office 

P.O. Box 1156 486 The Bancroft Library 

Topanga, California 90290 University of California, Berkeley. 

Suffragists Oral History Project 

Ernestine Kara Kettler 

An Interview Conducted by 
Sherna Gluck 

1975 by The Regents of the University of California and 
The Feminist History Research Project 

Ernestine Kara Kettler 

TABLE OF CONTENTS - Ernestine Kara Kettler 

Interview History 
Biographical Data 



Feminist Ideology as an Extension of Radicalism 9 


Prelude 12 

The Picketing 15 

Arrest and Jail 19 

Suffragists as Political Prisoners: The Demands 21 

Serving Time at Occoquan 24 

Afterthoughts 32 




The Progress of Women: Two Waves of Feminism 51 

APPENDIX: Letter to the Commissioners of the District of 
Columbia concerning the demands of the suffragists to be 

treated as political prisoners 59 



The Feminist History Research Project contacted Ernestine 
Kettler who was known in the Los Angeles Women's Movement for 
her participation in the Washington, D.C. National Woman's Party 
picketing in 1917. She had joined the National Organization for 
Women (NOW) in about 1968 and during the Jubilee Celebration of 
Woman's Suffrage, August 26, 1970, was one of the principal 
speakers, describing in rather moving terms her jail experience. 
An initial exchange of letters with her revealed her long involve 
ment in the labor movement following her participation in the 
suffrage struggle. 

Ernestine Kara Kettler is a very petite woman who appears 
younger than her seventy-seven years. Despite her appearance, 
she is a rather inactive and depressed woman who feels she is 
at the end of her life — a life which she believes has been wasted. 
This mental state was obvious even in our first interviews, though 
at that time she did not suffer from any acute medical conditions. 

A series of five interviews were recorded over a two-month 
period, beginning January 17, 1973. The interviews were conducted 
in her hotel in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles, a neigh 
borhood populated primarily by pensioners and retirees. Her room 
in the hotel was rather sparse, and many of her belongings were 
in boxes, reflecting a state of uncertainty about her future. 
She considered moving back to San Francisco, and in the end of 
April, 1973, while preparing to make the move, suffered the first 
of a series of strokes. 

Throughout the series of five interviews there was evidence 
of poor memory; she could not recall what might be considered 
dates of major events in her life, and her grasp of details was 
poor, a possible indication that she had suffered minor strokes 
prior to the interview. She clearly did not want to talk about 
events that she felt were personal. She was primarily interested 
in discussing her ideas, rather than the details in her life. 

Despite these factors there is information contained in the 
Kettler interviews that is valuable in understanding the range 
of participants in the suffrage struggle; the sections on feminism 
and suffrage in the manuscript reflect the ideas and motivations 
of a young woman on the fringes of the anarchist/socialist/ 
bohemian movements of the 1910s. It was not very usual for these 
"new women" to become so actively involved in the suffrage cam 
paign, though there were notable exceptions like Crystal Eastman. 

Because of the larger scope of the Feminist History 
Research Project, many of the interviews with Ernestine Kara 
Kettler covered her union activities and this information is 
not included here. Because, however, the discussion about the 
union activities were interwoven with those on suffrage and 
her views on feminism, liberties were taken by the interviewer/ 
editor in editing the transcript to provide a natural flow to 
the material. Despite the rearrangement of material, I do not 
think that either the spirit or the intent of her thoughts or 
language were violated. The full tapes have been retained by 
the Feminist History Research Project. Unfortunately, as a 
result of her more recent strokes, and the subsequent double 
vision, it was not possible for Ernestine to actually read the 
transcript herself. However, in conference with her, points 
requiring clarification were reviewed. 

Sherna Gluck 

March 1974 

BIOGRAPHICAL DATA - Ernestine Kara Kettler 


Born to Buhor Kara and Mali Eliescu Kara, January 25, 1896, 

Craiova, Roumania 

Emigrated to United States, 1907 

Married: Van Kleeck Allison (Anarchist journalist for Mother 
Earth), 1916 or 1917. Duration, one month 
Archer Lyle Emerson (I.W.W. organizer), 1919. Separated 

1923, divorced 1927 
William J. Kettler, 1928, widowed 1936 


High School, New York, 1912-1915 

Oberlin College, 1915-1916 

University of Wisconsin, summer session, 1925 


Worked in clerical positions for various unions, beginning 

in 1918 in Seattle until her retirement in 1959 in Los Angeles. 

A few of these were: 

I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of World) , 1923, Butte, Montana 
and Chicago, Illinois 

Marine and Fireman's Union, San Francisco 

Bakers Union, San Francisco 

Carpenters local, Los Angeles 

Member of Professional and Office Employees Union 

Geographic Mobility (Areas of residence) 

Roumania, 1896-1907 San Francisco, California, 1926-1936 

New York, 1907-1918 New York, 1936-1938 

Everett, Washington, 1918 San Francisco, 1938-1948 

Seattle, Washington, 1918-1923 Los Angeles, 1949-1974; brief trips 
Butte, Montana, Chicago, Illinois, to England, 1959 and Israel, 
1923 1966 


Poetry, published in small radical magazines, to 1917 

Unpublished stories, plays 

Political Essays, published in various radical journals and 

newspapers, e.g. New America, The Pagan, and The Socialist 



Gluck: Can you give me an idea of your background In very 

general terms, beginning with your youth and how you 
got Involved In the suffrage activities i and, 
then, you mentioned you were Involved with the 
Wobblles [Industrial Workers of the World - I.W.W.] 
and with trade unions. After knowing the general 
picture, I'll then be able to know what areas to 
cover In detail In later Interviews. 

Kettlert I came out of an anarchist family. Of course, my 

mother followed my father's Ideology - as most women 
In love with their husbands will do. I was not born 
In this country; I was born In Roumanla. But, 
you know, at that time I was young and It fthe 
anarchist background] didn't Impress me. It Just 
didn't make any Impression on my mind. It was an 
experience I hadn't had until I came to this country. 

Gluck: When were you born? 

Kettler: January 25th - and you may send me a birthday card, If 
you wish - 1896. It seems awful to know that I'm of 
that age because of the way I think and the way I 
feel. I cannot understand old age. This Is true 
I think of many old-aged people? they cannot understand 
that they are old. They do not know what it Is If 
they're active and are extremely Interested in ideas 
and get aroused by all kinds of unhappy things going 
on in the world. They Just don't understand old age. 

I mean, I feel today the way I used to feel 
years ago. But the only thing is that I realize that 
I'm physically not as capable of navigating as I was 
before; that I'm Just reaching the end of my life. 
I'm speaking now without having told you anything 
about the beginning of my life. 

Gluck: You came to the United States when you were thirteen? 

Kettlert Oh no. I was eleven. 

Gluck « Do you remember anything about your life In Roumanla? 

Kettlen Yes, I remember certain very Interesting things about 
my life In Roumanla. I remember my reaction and 
attitudes towards superstltutlons . That, I thought, 
was rather remarkable. For example - I've always 
remembered this and I've never forgotten It - 
children used to follow funerals. I was one of the 
children and I used to go along with them from one 
funeral to another. Sometimes we used to have good 
things to eat. We always went to funerals. 

The last one I attended, we went up to the corpse 
and stood there looking at her - an old woman with her 
arms crossed, hands crossed over her chest - and It 
was Just a sudden shock. I thought, "What am I 
doing here?! Why do I follow funerals? Why do I 
come to look at dead people?" Since that time, I 
have never - never, not since that time - ever 
looked at a dead person again. And I've been to many 

The vision was so strong that it shocked mej the 
realization that I was doing such a morbid thing. To 
me it seemed morbid, but it didn't seem morbid to 
the other children. I still wonder what on earth 
made me follow those children around from one funeral 
to another. I couldn't understand it. 

Another thing that happened to met I'm of Jewish 
extraction and some of my friends said, "Now, be 
careful, Ernestine, when you see a priest coming down 
the street, take three steps back and three steps 
forward, and the devil won't get you." I used to do 
that. You know, you follow the leader. You do what 
the leader does. 

I did that one day when I was quite alone. A 
priest saw me, and he stopped me and he asked me why 
did I do that. Do you know, I had no answer. It 
Just suddenly seemed very irrational to me. I Just 
couldn't believe that I'd do such a stupid thing. 
That's the last time I was ever afraid of a priest. 
Those were the childish things, you know. 

Gluck : 

Gluck : 

Gluck t 

Gluok i 

Gluck : 

Gluck i 

Were your family Orthodox Jews? 

No, no. They were agnostics; at least my mother was 
an agnostic. My father died rather youngj he was 
around forty and I don't know what he was. 

We were never taught religion. My mother used to 
tell us stories out of the Old Testament of heores and 
heroines, you know, Just to amuse us. They were better 
than some of the children's books that were published. 
But we had no religious training of any kind. We 
really didn't have it. 

Were you in the city or were you In the countryside? 

No, no, we were in the city. What I remember is 
that there was a city there and we were like in the 
suburb of a city. 

What was the name of the city? 

Craiova. Then, Just before we left Roumanla, we 
lived in Bucharest. I remember a little about that but 
not too much. We didn't get around too much. We 
were very poor. After my father died, we really had 
no money. I suppose we came to this country, like a 
lot of Immigrants come here, helped by their relatives - 

money is sent them or tickets are sent them, 
how we came here. 

You had relatives here when you came? 


Yes, we had relatives here. Do you know that not a 
single one Is alive? I'm really a person without a 
relative. The cousin that I now have is certainly 
not my type of person, and It's very difficult to form 
any kind of relationship with her because there's no 
basis for a relationship. 

Did you have brothers and sisters? 

Yes, I did. My two brothers died and my sister is 
in Israel. 

When you came at the age of eleven, did you have to go 
to work right away? 

I went to school. I never did go to work until I 
was about eighteen, I guess, or older. 

Gluck: So your family settled In New York when you came? 

Kettlen Yes, oh yes. I think that I really left home when I 
was In my twenty-first or twenty- second year and came 
West - went to Everett, Washington. 


Kettlen After I came to this country at the age of eleven, 

I became Involved with a group on the streets where I 
lived (In New York City); a close associate - a 
young girl - was radical herself, and the Socialist 
party was Just around the corner from where I lived. 
We used to go around there. Although we never Joined 
the Young People's Socialist League, we were never 
theless curious about the place and we became friendly; 
It sort of strengthened our political Ideas. I don't 
know how much of It I understood then. It was at a 
later age that I was more aware of It, at sixteen or 

I went to school [high school]] and then I was 
sent to private school for one year by a rich 
millionaire who had hopes that I'd become a professor 
someday. I'd never graduated, even from high school, 
but I'd had one year of college education Just the 
same [at Oberlln] because of certain knowledge that 
I had. I was advanced in one respect, but I lacked 
credits In other respects. 

In 1917 - that's really the beginning of the 
suffrage story - I met a woman from Everett, Washington, 
Mrs. Katherine Hodges. (She's dead now.) She had 
come to New York as a delegate to a Socialist convention. 
Evidently I was doing some work for the Socialist 
party then and met her. We started talking and she 
was telling me about the party in Washington [The 
National Woman's Party - N.W.P.] whose members were 
picketing the president, and she asked if I cared to 

It happened that I Just turned twenty-one. I 
was of legal age, and I could go. Of course, anything 
as exciting as that would appeal to me. So I went. 
I can't remember Just what arrangements I made, but 




Gluck : 

Kettler i 

the arrangements were made and there I was In 
Washington. This Is the story of the suffrage picketing. 
Do you want me to tell It now? 

Was this your first exposure to the suffrage fight? 

That was my first exposure to It. I was always a 
suffragette and I used to argue about It with this 
early friend of mine, this chum of mine. She wasn't 
In New York at that time or she might have gone down 
to Washington, D.C. with me. But I went down. The 
story with her follows after my experience with the 
suffrage party [The National Woman's Party].* You 
don't want to hear the story of the suffrage party 
yet, do you? 

First, can you tell me more about your radical 
political Involvement? 

Prior to that I had been, with my friend, active In 
the various movements that existed In New York. I 
met a number of IWWs [Industrial Workers of the World] 
there and a number of socialists and general radicals 
who were not committed to any particular Ideology or 
to any particular party. I was already familiar with 
the IWW and the socialists. 

As far as anarchism Is concerned, that's really 
more of an aesthetic philosophy. Even In those days, 
I thought It was an aesthetic philosophy - although 
It Is not. I had opportunities since then to analyze 
It more thoroughly and still think It's a rather 
aesthetic philosophy; an ethical one rather than a 
practical one. A practical one Is the things that we 
are faced with In life. You're trying to transform a 
society and suddenly you are faced with many practical 
Issues. If you have not had the experience, you 
really stumble and you fumble In trying to break 
down these Issues and then reorganize them Into a new 
type of administrative work. 

Of course, you know, I have read about anarchism 

* Editor's Note i Whenever Mrs. Kettler talks of the 
suffrage party she Is referring to the National 
Woman's Party. 

Kettler: and I realize that they have a fairly organized idea 
of how society would be handled. I'm not sure that I 
quite agree with it. It still sounds idealistic to 
me. As a matter of fact, all radical movements sound 
very idealistic to me as they haven't been realized 
in any soclty except the Soviet Union. And the 
Soviet Union has been a dismal - not Just failure, 
but - disappointment to me. 

Glucki So your ideology at that time, when you became involved 
in the suffrage movement, was basically the current 
socialist ideology of that period? 

Kettler i It was actually a current anarchist Ideology and, as 
I say, rather on the ephemeral side. I really hadn't 
done any reading. I don't believe I read until about 
thirty or forty years ago, which is very shameful of 
me because I should have read at the very beginning. 
But I was a romantic person so I was Interested in 
novels rather than in politics. I can't say that. I 
don't mean Interested In novels rather than in 
politics, but rather than in political education, 
which really was extremely necessary for me because 
I was forced to form my own ideas of an ideal society. 
It was very interesting, later, as I compared it with 
the books that I'd read, how close I'd come to working 
out a pattern that might more or less work - or 
that seemed to be comparable to what I had begun to 

You know, actually, you have a thinking mind. 
If you were raised as I was raised, in a radical 
world, your Ideas begin to function radically i and 
they function theoretically, too. They also function 
with a great deal of disappointment when you see how 
the world is operating and how you're not getting 
any place; how a Russian Revolution takes place and 
what happens to it in a very short time. 

You have a great deal of idealism towards the 
Revolution, which was phenomenal. The Revolution 
really was phenomenal. Then you have to go through the 
entire progress of communism to what [Alexander] 
Solzhenltsyn called state capitalism. This Is the 
thing that surprised me - that they'd even come to 
changing the whole structure of the Soviet Union by 
calling it state capitalism. I'm not too much 


Gluck : 

Gluck : 

Gluck i 

Gluck « 

Impressed because from all that I've read of his 
letters and his articles, he still doesn't understand 
Marxism. They don't understand Marxism and have no 
way of really understanding what Has done wrong In the 
Soviet Union. These professors at the universities 
over there aren't even allowed to read the old 
Marxist literature) they only read what has been revised 
by Stalin and by other capable writers In the Soviet 

Anyway, I'm going off the point - I'm talking 
generally now, Including my Ideas as well as my 
experiences. But this Is what happens In my letters 
to people? I start out nonchalantly and the next thing 
I know, I'm knee-deep In a political Idea and 

What about your Involvement with other radicals In 
New York? 

The Involvement was general. I wasn't a member of 
anything i I didn't Join any of the organizations. But 
I knew a lot of different types of radicals - IWWs 
and socialists, mainly. Some anarchists, but I don't 
remember any to an Important degree. 

You mentioned before knowing Hlppolyte Havel [an 
anarchist associate of Emma Goldman]. 

Oh, yes. 

He was still an anarchist then, wasn't he? 

Yes, he was an anarchist, that's right. I guess the 
only anarchists I knew were the big ones. [Laughterj 
I went In 1916 to Provlncetown, and I think that's 
where I met him. No, no - I knew Hlppolyte In New 
York City. I met him before then. But It's so many 
years ago, and It didn't seem Important to me to 
remember dates and figures and - there was a continual 
meshing of dates. 

The dates aren't that Important. 

But I met Hlppolyte In New York before I went to 
Provlncetown. I went to Provlncetown with the Zorach 
family. Did you ever hear of them? He was a 
sculptor and she was a painter. He was with the New 


Kettlen York School of Social Research; I think they had an 
art department. He was there until he died not long 
ago - two or three years ago. 

Gluck » And you went as a friend of theirs? 

Kettlen I met them and they wanted somebody to go along and 
look after their young boy. He was about a year 
or a year and a half at that time. I don't know 
whether I was In Provincetown the whole summer. I was 
there at least two months. I stayed there [with 
the Zorachs] about a month and then I left them and 
got a room. 

I met the people who were there. How I met 
them, I don't know - perhaps through the Zorachs. But 
I told you the story already about meeting Eugene 
O'Neill and Terry Carlln. And about Introducing Eugene 
to this group of people there, and about how I was 
offered a part In one of Louise Bryant's one-act 
plays and about how I turned It down because I wanted 
one In Eugene O'Neill's. [Laughter] I couldn't act 
worth a darn, but do you know I chose the biggest 
role there was and the most difficult. You had to be 
a professional actress to play It. [Laughter] 

Gluck t So your associations were with an occasional anarchist, 
like Hippolyte Havel. Did you know Berkman and 

Kettlen I met both ftmma Goldman and Alexander Berkman and I 
know I received a letter from Berkman while I was in 
Jail in Virginia [Occoquan]. I didn't know them welli 
I just met them occasionally. I remember, now, that 
I met them through their anarchist group. I used 
to go to their affairs and sometimes to their forums, 
and I met a number of people there. You see, I 
traveled around to all these various groups. 

I don't remember going to the IWW headquarters. 
I did go to the Socialist party headquarters. I 
had very strong views against those fellows who 
registered for the draft - very strong - and had 
great admiration for the two or three who refused to 
register and spent the years in Leavenworth Prison.* 

•Editor's note i There were many who refused to 
register, but only a few were widely publicised. 

Gluck : 

Gluck i 

Gluck i 


Evidently Leavenworth has been the one federal prison 
that was used for conscientious objectors In this 

That's where Berkman served his second term. No. 
No, It was at Atlanta. He and Ammon Hennacy were 
both at Atlanta. 


Ammon Hennacy of the Catholic Worker. 

Oh. I didn't know him. I might have met him, but I 
do not recall him. Prom the Catholic Worker paper, 
you mean? The only one I know there Is Dorothy Day. 
I know her through the Liberator; that preceded the 
Masses . 

In all of these groups, you were sort of In and out? 

Just In and out . I was a general radical ; a general 
radical with not much education and not much knowledge. 
But I have a very fertile mind. I worked out my Idea 
of an Ideal society. It was very funny that I was much 
more logical than I realized; because when I finally 
Joined the Socialist Workers Party I had already 
accepted a great many ideas in it. I had already 
worked them out in my own mind. 

But I didn't know history. I tell you, It's 
pitiful when you don't know history. You listen to 
people giving you a lot of historical material, and 
you have no basis on which to Judge it; you have no 
knowledge of it. That was one of the pitiful parts 
of my life that I've always regretted. I've had to 
study, to learn so much since then. 

I Joined the Socialist Workers Party In 
That's about thirty-three years ago. 

Feminist Ideology as an Extension of Radicalism 

Gluck t During this sort of going in and out of radical 

activities, before you went to Washington, do you 
remember If there was much talk or thought about women 
in the radical movement then? 


Kettler: Evidently there was. How would I have gotten started 
going down to Washington If I didn't have Ideas 
already about the repression of women In many fields 
of political and public life? Also the repression of 
women as thinking creatures - that was my first 
objection. I thought women were very capable of 
thinking and very capable of organizing and very 
capable of all kinds of political activities and 
political knowledge. After all, I met a lot of women 
and I listened to them. 

Quite aside from that, I had a strong feminist 
viewpoint virtually my whole life. I mean, I used 
to argue about it with various people over the years. 
But the only time I ever joined anything is when I 
joined the suffrage party in Washington, D.C. 

Gluck: Do you remember any of the activities around the 
birth control fight, like when Emma Goldman was 
arrested for giving out birth control literature? 

Kettler: Vaguely. I wasn't involved in it. I just don't 
remember [any birth control activities] until I 
went to Seattle, Washington. I could have gotten so 
many years in jail for writing a letter on birth 
control. The [police] officer read it. Do you know 
how I kept him from knowing what he was reading? 
I talked. I talked the entire time that he was reading 
that letter and he never made any sense out of it. 
He just folded it up and put it back in the drawer. 

Gluck: In this earlier time, though, you don't remember 

consciously being aware of discussion in the radical 
movement about women? It was there somewhere to have 
Influenced you? 

Kettler: I accepted it passively. Looking back on it, I don't 
recall any specific instance, I was travelling around 
with two or three girls j we were all feminists and we 
all believed that women were just as capable as men 
if given the opportunity or permitted to develop the 
potentiality. It Just never occurred to us that 
women weren't any less capable than men. 

Of course, for my whole life, I've had the 
attitude that men themselves weren't very capable » that 
the average person is too busy trying to earn a 
living to find out if he had any talents or to develop 
arts or to develop other types of work besides whatever 
they were doing working for a living. 


Kettler: But, you know, this was a part of the whole 

philosophy that we carried, and I can't separate one 
from the other and remember distinctly any special 
struggle that we fought. 

Gluck: Do you remember at that period of time using the word 
feminist to describe yourself? 

Kettler i No, I don't think we used that word. I don't know 
what we used. I don't know how this word feminist 
came Into use, do you know? 

Gluck: It was used early, but a lot of women who were Involved 
In radicalism didn't use It to describe their own 

Kettler i Yes, because they allied themselves with menj this 
was a total struggle, regardless of sex. 

Gluck i At that point - this is still before you went to 

Washington - did you have any Ideas about marriage and 
children and sex? 

Kettler: I had ideas about sex and marriage, but I don't think 
I was thinking about children for myself. 

Gluck: What were your ideas at that time? 

Kettler: As I said, the ideas were all meshed together. I 

can't remember any specific Instance about children. 
I had an Interest in sex and In marriage, and that's 
all I remember . 

Gluck: Did you believe in the institution of marriage, then, 
at that point? 

Kettler: I imagine that I didn't. I think that I even had a 
legal objection to it. At that time, they were 
talking about the women who were married being legal 
prostitutes. There was a great deal of that kind of 
talk. I accepted it without going deeply Into it. 

However, I really had feminist views my whole 
life. I'd notice areas of repression against women 
and discrimination - I noticed that constantly. I 
don't know of any field I can touch where It didn't 
exist. So that, really, my whole attitude was a total 
attitude against discrimination. Whenever I'd hear 


Kettlert of something new that I hadn't heard of before, I 

accepted It. Perhaps I accepted It too quickly and 
too glibly. But my views haven't changed about It so 
that I think I was correct In accepting them. 

You still want Just my philosophy, my early 



Gluck i 


Gluck i 


Gluck j 

Gluck t 

We're going to start shifting to the suffrage story. 
I want to ask you a few more questions about New 
York, though. Do you recall those earlier suffrage 
parades In New York? Like In 1915 there was a big 
parade. Do you recall any of those suffrage parades? 

I walked In a couple of them. I know that I walked 
In one of them before I went down to Washington and 
walked In another one after I went down to Washington. 
That's all I remember - Just walking In them. 

What I wasn't sure about was If the Washington, D.C, 

experience was the very first contact with suffrage 

or If you had been In the parades or had some other 
suffrage exposure. 

I know that my friend and I walked In that earlier 
parade - about 1915, or whenever It was. I know that 
was before I went down to Washington. Then, I 
walked In the next parade, but my friend wasn't there 
any longer; she was opposed to what the suffragettes 
were doing In Washington. She was opposed to direct 
action, which surprised me very much. 

So the next parade was after you had been In Jail? 

Yes, after I had been In Jail, 
year It was. 

I don't remember what 

The two really big ones were, I think, the one In 
1912 and then this one In 1915. Then there was, of 
course, one In Washington Itself alsoj there were 



Gluck i 

Gluck t 



Gluck : 

Well, It must be the 1915 one, but I thought I 
marched in two of them. The latest I could have 
marched was in 1918 - the early part of 1918. I 
left New York then and went to Everett, Washington 
that year. 

This friend of yours who was also involved in radical 
activities - she marched with you? 

She marched in one of them with me but not in the 

Did your other political associates, do you remember, 
also go to those parades? 

I don't remember. There must have been a group of us 
who went to this parade and marched in it . A group 
of my girl friends. 

They were all involved in radical activities? 

Oh yes. We all were. We were going to publish a 
monthly magazine - type so many copies. [Laughter]) 
How we ever planned it - it was very comical, you 
know. Type so many copies and give them around. 
I was the only one that was writing, [laughter] so 
what material did we have? They thought I had a lot 
of talent ("laughter]? I was surprised. 

How you got Involved in the Washington, D.C. suffrage 
activity, then, was that you went to a Socialist 
meeting of some kind. 

I went to the Socialist party to help them out with 
the mailing. I often did that. This time, I met 
this woman, Katherlne Hodges, from Everett, Washington, 
who became interested in me. How the conversation 
started, I don't know, but she told me what the 
suffrage party was doing in Washington and she asked 
if I'd like to go. 

About how old was she? 
that time? 

Was she in her fifties at 

How old was she? Oh, about thirty I imagine. 

The first thing she asked me was how old I was and 

I told her. I had just turned twenty-one. Then 

she told me about this group and asked if I would be 

interested in it. She told me how they were conducting 

Kettler: the picket lines and so on, and said I might go to 
Jail. Well, I'd never been to Jail; It was kind of 
romantic In my mind. I thought that would be a 
very thrilling experience. 

I was both serious and light-headed about It - 
not light-hearted but Just light-headed about it. 

Gluck: Had she herself been involved in the picketing or 
she Just knew about it? 

Kettler t No, she didn't go. The convention generally lasted 
about three days and she was actually, at the end of 
It, returning to Everett. She couldn't stay because 
to stay meant not only to picket several days but 
finally being arrested? and then you have to appear 
at the trial and then you have to grit your teeth 
and take your sentence. 

So she couldn't stay. She was married and had 
responsibilities back home. 

Gluck t Among the socialists, was she unusual in her interest 
in the suffrage struggle? 

Kettler i She was unusual in that she was the only one who 

spoke to me about it at the time. They [the N.W.P.] 
were doing all this picketing in Washington; 
It was during the height of their picketing. 

I don't know how I got there; I might have 
contacted some suffragettes in New York. All I 
remember is that I found myself In Washington. I 
didn't even have money, so someone must have paid 
my fare down there. Perhaps this Katherlne 
Hodges paid my fare, or perhaps the suffrage party 
paid my fare. But my fare was paid down to Washington. 
Probably I was met at the station and taken to head 

Headquarters was the Little White House. 
You've heard of the Little White House, haven't you? 
That's where President McKlnley died and I was given 
his room and his bed. [Laughter] After that, I 
wanted to get out of that room; I didn't want to 
sleep In anybody's death bed. Of course, he was only 
killed, you know, he didn't die of a disease. 


Gluck i Was this the National Woman's Party house, then? The 
one on Lafayette Square? 

Kettler: In Washington? I guess it is, but I don't know; it 
was really kitty-comer from the main White House. 
That's Lafayette Square? 

Gluck « I think so. Now, you met Alice Paul then? 
Kettler: Oh yes. Oh yes, I certainly met Alice Paul. 

The Picketing 

Gluck: Can you remember when you got down there? You must 
have been really excited and everything about all 
this. You were all alone? 

Kettler: I was all alone. Yes, I was alone. You know, they 
picketed four in a group j I met the other four only 
in Washington at headquarters. One of them was 
•Peggy Johns from New York. The other girl's name 
I do not remember, but she was in the needle trades 
industry - an organizer in New York. The fourth person 
was a lawyer, either from Wyoming or Arizona or some 
western state. 

Gluck: How long had you been at the headquarters there before 
you went out in a group? 

Kettler « I was there perhaps a week before I went on the picket 
line. I don't know, two or three days before I went 
on the picket line. 

Glucki So you got familiar with everybody then, before you - 

Kettler t Yes. I think that we started picketing the second or 

third day I was there. We picketed several days before 
we were finally hauled in and arrested. 

Gluck: The same four of you picketed each of those days? 

Kettler: Yes. See, what they did was as soon as four of the 

group were arrested, then they sent out another group 
of four. There was Just a continuous picket line, 
and that's what drove the policemen crazy - they saw 


Kettler: no end to the number of women who were picketing. 

In the beginning, for several months, they were 
chastised or given three days in the city Jail? 
anyhow, they weren't branded in the sense that they 
were sent to a workhouse. When I came, they had 
already started giving women thirty days and sending 
them to Occoquan workhouse. 

Gluck: So you knew when you went out picketing that you 
would probably be arrested? 

Kettler: So I knew that I would probably be arrested. But, 
as I said, it sounded very exciting to me. 

Gluck: Did they prepare you for It In anyway? 

Kettler: Well, I think they probably gave me a story about it. 
But we were quite capable. We started the [issue 
about] brutality at the workhouse; that shows that my 
group was a very capable group. 

Gluck: How old were the others In your group? Were they 
older than you? 

Kettler: I'd say they were between twenty-five and thirty-five. 

Gluck: Were you actually picketing or were you sentinels? 
Did you stand in one place or did you walk? 

Kettler i We were walking, right in front of the gates. 

Walking back and forth, Just In front of the gates. 

Gluck: Did you have that purple and gold and white banner? 

Kettler: Oh yes, we had that. I remember now that those were 
our colors. Then there must have been a saying on it 
of some kind. You just can't have just a plain 
banner without something on It to draw the attention 
of the people passing by. I don't remember whether 
we each carried one banner or whether the four of us 
carried a long banner, with four posts on it. 

Gluck » Do you remember what they said, the banners carried 
by your group? 

Kettler: No. I should remember oecause it was In my mind for 
many years. I've forgotten. You know, it's very 


Kettlen easy to forget after so many years. If you don't 
come across it, you Just forget. But I think that 
they are In the two books on the subject that have 
been published. Have you read them? 

Gluck: I read Up Hill With Banners Flying: The Story of the 
National Woman's Party. 

Kettler: That was the second book that was written. The 

first one was written by a woman whom I knew, but I 
can't remember her name. 

Gluck: Inez Irwln. 

Kettler: Who? 

Gluck i Inez Irwln. 

Kettler: How many books were written on the subject that you 

Gluck: There's one written by a Doris Stevens about the 
treatment in the Jail. 

Kettler: Doris Stevens is the one. 

Gluck: The other one was Inez Irwin, which is the story of 
the whole party [N.W.P.] and the picketing; it's a 
much broader one. 

Kettler: Doris Stevens didn f t know that it was my group that 
started the fe^e^s leading to the] brutalityt the 
first real confrontation that we had with the prison 
administration was through my group. 

Gluck: Before the prison part, can you describe more what 
happened with the picketing. Were you harrassed 
while you were picketing? 

Kettler: We were terribly harrassed. There were always men 

and women standing out there harrassing us and throwing 
some pretty bad insults - and pretty obscene ones. 

Gluck: The women, too? 

Kettler » The women weren't obscene, but the men were quite 
obscene. During that period, somebody shot right 
through the open windows of the Little White House 









of the headquarters - could have killed any woman 
that happened to be In the right position for It. And 
we couldn't get police protection. We Just couldn't 
get It! 

The police, as I said, left us alone t but when 
the crowd got too noisy and the police couldn't get 
rid of them, then they hauled us In for obstructing 

How large a crowd would gather everyday? 

I don't remember, but It seemed pretty big to me. 

Of the people passing by, were they all hostile? 
Did you get any support? 

We had some support, but you took your life In your 
hands. If any of the bystanders supported us, they 
could be beaten by the rest of the crowd. 

How did you handle the bystanders? 
Ignore them? 

Did you Just 

We Just Ignored them. These were our Instructions - 
"Just absolutely pay no attention to them." Then, 
towards the end, I know they started throwing stuff 
at the women. We had no police protection whatever - 
absolutely none. The only protection we had [laughter] 
was when we were arrested; then we were protected. 

How did you feel about all this? 

Were you pretty 


Oh, I was brave. My goodness. I was fighting for a 
cause. I didn't pay attention to them. 

How did It work? Did the four people stand there 
all day, or did someone come and — 

I don't remember. We probably must have had shifts. 
I don't think that we were there all dayt I think we 
were there so many hours. We did have shifts. What 
did Doris Stevens say about It? Do you recall? 
You know, I had two books and I gave them both away. 
(I'm like that i when I value a thing very much and I 
value a friendship, I give what I value.) 
They're very difficult to get hold of. 


Kettlert It's so sad because the book that I had was the Doris 
Stevens' book. The National Organization for Women 
learned about me only when I sent an article In to 
the bulletin, and they couldn't believe It. I 
looked young; I looked too young to have been In that 

They went to the library and picked up a book 
and found my maiden name? they recognized me by my 
first name. I was the only Ernestine, but they 
couldn't find the picture. [Laughter] It's awfully 
hard to find a picture of a twenty-one-year-old. 

Gluck: I have some of the pictures of the picketing groups, 
but it's so hard to see who's who in them. 

Kettlert Yes, it is very hard. I happened to know what kind 
of a hat I wore. I happened to recognize myself 
but that's all. One book, the Doris Stevens' book, 
has many pictures in it. 

Gluck: And you were In one of those pictures? 
Kettlert I was in one of those pictures. 

Gluck: I'll have to get the copy out of the library again 

and have you show me which one was you. 

Arrest and Jail 

Gluck » So you were picketing a couple of days, then, before 
the arrest? 

Kettlert I don't really know how long I picketed. I cannot 
tell you that, I do not remember. 

On one of the picketing days, the police hauled 
us In and took us to Jail. 

Gluck t When you were arrested, were the four of you in one 
van when they took you off? 

Kettlert I suppose so - or one car, whatever It was. All four 
of us would be arrested at one time. Immediately, 
the lawyer or somebody was sent to the city Jail to 
bail us out. 


Gluck : 

Gluck i 



So you weren't really in Jail very long when you were 
first arrested? 

No, we were probably there an hour. We were bailed out 
right away and then we appeared in court. 

How long did you have to wait for your trial to come 
up, then? 

I don't remember, but it wasn't very long. After 
all, they [the N.W.P.J had to board us and that costs 
money. But they really got a lot of money; they got 
a lot of contributions. 

Once you knew you were going to be going to Jail, 
then, how did you feel? 

I already knew. As I said, I knew it when I was in 
New York because Katherlne told me. She said, "You 
might go to Jallj you might be arrested." I said, 
"That ' s all right . " But I could not have gone again 
to Jail. 

Do you recall what happened at the trial itself? 
Did you all make statements, or what? 

We all made statements that we were not obstructing 
traffic, but that the traffic was obstructing 
us - which was true. What is the other petty charge 
they can have? Obstructing traffic and loitering - 
I don't know. We weren't doing either one of them, 
we were marching. There were only four of us. We 
told them we couldn't possibly obstruct traffic. We 
were on the street. There was only one row of us, 
only four of us. There was plenty of room. "But," 
we said, "unfortunately a lot of people stopped and 
they obstructed traffic. None of them were arrested, 
except us." We were very bold. 

Did you make statements about suffrage at the trial? 

We tried, but we didn't get very far. Oh yes, we 
always made statements. Besides which, we had a 
lawyer. I'm trying to think of his name - he was 
very famous. He fought for woman's suffrage for 
years, and I can't think of his name. He was in that 
book, also. 


Kettler: The Judge asked me how old I was and when I 

said twenty-one, he was so mad; he couldn't believe 
it. But he had to believe it because he knew that one 
thing that the suffrage party was very insistent about 
was age; that we had to be twenty-one or over. We 
couldn't march, otherwise, and we couldn't participate 
in that fight. 

So we were given thirty days. 
Gluck: You were sentenced right at the time you were arrested? 

Kettler: No, not at the time. We were balled out first. Then 
we appeared in court, and then the Judge sentenced 
us. Before then, only the hardcore criminals like 
Alice Paul were given thirty days. Some of the 
others were given ten days or three days. I think 
that the three-day [sentences'] were spent in the city 

Suffragists as Political Prisoners; The Demands 

Kettler t After we were sentenced, we were taken directly to 

the city Jail. That's where we cooked up our political 
prisoner demands.* "We were political prisoners. We 
were not guilty of obstructing traffic. We were not 
guilty of the sentence as charged. Therefore, we 
did not owe any kind of work in the workhouse." That 
workhouse fOccoquan] was a real workhouse - you 
worked or else. We didn't work so we were "or 
elsed." That's the beginning of the real fight at 
the workhouse. 

In the Jail, where we were taken that evening 
and overnight, we made all these decisions. We 
were not going to work. We were going to ask all the 
other suffrage women already in Jail to accept our 

*Por another account of prison life and development 
of the political prisoner demands see Doris Stevens, 
Jailed for Freedom. N.Y. 1920. pp. 175-183. 


Kettler: decision, and whatever happened, happened. 

Gluck: There was already a group In [the workhouse] when 
you went In? 

Kettler: There was a group of either eight or twelve women. 
I do not remembers either we made the twelve women 
or we made sixteen women. It seemed like a rather 
large crowd to me, so I think that we made it sixteen 
women when we got there. Now I'm giving you the real 
story of the prison experience. [Coughing"] (If 
I didn't smoke so much, I wouldn't be coughing.) 

When we got there, we had an immediate discussion 
with the other women and told them our decision. They 
were very enthusiastic about it; they accepted it 
without question. The next day we appeared ^in the 
workroom, and we just sat there with our hands In 
our laps. 

I don't know when the superintendent began to 
talk to us, but it wasn't long before he asked, "Would 
we, at least, please hold the work in our lap," 
[He said that] we were demoralizing the other prisoners 
in that workroom. What we were making, I suppose, 
were sack dresses for the prisoners? that's all we 
wore, just sack dresses. 

We said, "No." We'd decided that since we were 
unjustly arrested and that we were political prisoners, 
it would be just as wrong for us to hold the work 
In our hands as it was to sew it. We were going to 
abide by our decision - that we had to be respected 
as political prisoners." This went on for twenty-six 

We were supposed to have thirty days there but 
we lost the four days or five days off for good 
behavior the first day we were at the city jail where 
we raised Cain (or perhaps at the workhouse, where 
we refused to work). 

All the women in that room [the sewing room at 
Occoquan] took an example from us, and they also 
refused to workj there was nothing they could do about 
the whole room. I think that there probably were 
about a dozen other women In that workroom. I really 
don't remember? it was a fairly big room, but it didn't 
seem crowded. 





In the Doris Stevens' book there is a letter signed 
by all of you, protesting conditions and stating 
your demands.* Do you recall how that statement 
was drawn up? 

I don't think we even wrote anything daring that 
period. I think we really voiced it orally. 

o be 

[Commenting on the contents of the letter.] 
were not segregated, I know that. We asked not t 
confined under locks and bars in small groups. In 
the time that I was there, none of us were segregated 
and no one was in solitary confinement except the 
voluntary one of Peggy Johns who really took herself 
to the hospital and stayed there. 

We asked exemption from prison worki that our 
legal right to consult counsel be recognized j that 
food sent to us from outside; that we be allowed to 
supply ourselves with writing material for as much 
correspondence as we may need - which we didn't get. 
We were allowed some correspondence, not much. That 
was limited to receiving books, letters, and newspapers 
from our relatives and friends. 

To my knowledge, I was the only one who was 
permitted a visit; my mother was permitted to come 
and see me. The people in the office were mad as 
hell because we spoke in Roumanian and nobody 
understood. [Laughter] [Coughing and sneezing] 

[Reading from the Doris Stevens' book] "On 
entering the workhouse we found conditions very bad, 
but before we could ask that the suffragists be 
treated as political prisoners, it was necessary to 
make a stand for the ordinary rights of human beings 
for all Inmates." That must have been before 
we came there. As I said, there were about a dozen 
women already there. 

So you don't remember any statement being written 
while you were inside? Do you think this was written 
once you were out? 

*See Appendix for Letter to the Commissioners of the 
District of Columbia. 


I don't remember a statement that we wrote Inside. 
It seems to me I should remember It. I know what we 
told the superintendent virtually everyday that we 
were there; but I don't remember a written statement, 
The written statement, I think, was done afterwards. 
They got the names of everyone who was there but 
I don't think got enough names. 

Serving Time at Occoquan 

Cluck: Do you remember Lucy Burns? In that letter that all 
of you signed it sounds like she, not Peggy Johns, 
was the one who was separated from the rest of 
you. You ask that she should be rejoined with you; it 
sounds like stewas put in the psychopathic ward. 

Kettlerr I think they made a mistake. Absolutely, because 

during September Peggy was there, and she was in the 
hospital all of that time. It's possible that they 
had forgotten it . 

You see, my friend, Peggy Johns, "became ill and 
she was taken to the hospital. Believe it or not, she 
was In the hospital the entire time, for twenty-six 


I used to visit her in the hospital every day. 
One day I went to see her and she wasn't there. I 
asked the nurse what happened to my friend. She 
said, "I don't know." I asked all the other nurses, 
whoever was there. They said, "We don't know. Just 
go and ask the superintendent." 

I rushed into the other building. There was a 
long hallway - a dining room at the end and a long 
hallway to the superintendent's office at the front. 
As I walked along the hallway, there was Peggy - all 
dressed up In her civilian clothes. 

I said, "Peggy! Where are you going?" She 
said, "They're taking me to the psychopathic ward In 
Washington, B.C. Go tell the other girls, and all 
of you rush back here." So I did. I rushed back and 
told the girls what was going on, and we all rushed 


Kettlen Into the office. 

The superintendent was absolutely dumbfounded 
when he saw us, you know. He Just thought that he 
would be able to steal her away without us knowing 
anything about ito If it hadn't been that I was 
her very loyal visitor, I wouldn't have known a 
thing about it and we wouldn't have found out. But 
I think that eventually we would have found out through 
what happened afterwards. 

When we got into that office, we told him that 
he can't do that; that she will have to be picked up 
by our lawyer in Washington and taken to the hospital; 
that she cannot be sent Just by the prison alone; that 
we had no assurance what would happen to her? 
and that, above all things, we want security for our 
women . 

He wouldn't abide by it. One of the women rushed 
to the telephone to phone our headquarters In Washing 
ton, and he rushed over, too, and Just tore the phone 
right off the wall. That's the time that he called 
in deputies. Of all the dirty tricks, he called in 
Negro girls to come in there and - I'm telling you - 
they beat the hell out of us. 

I was so little that I was scared to death to 
get in the crowd and I was on the outside. I saw some 
women on the floor being trampled. The Negro girls - 
considering how badly they were treated - got the 
most intense Joy out of beating the hell out of the 
white women. The superintendent was so frightened 
when he saw the zeal with which these women were 
beating us - he didn't want us killed or hurt In 
anyway because he would be held entirely responsible - 
that he had to call in the men deputies to haul the 
Negro girls off of us and get them outside. 

He then allowed us to call Washington. We called 
headquarters and told them what was going on. Peggy 
was sent to Washington and the lawyer met her and 
took her to the hospital (or wherever he took her) . 
Anyway, she wasn't taken to the psychopathic ward. I 
think her illness was perhaps contrived. 

The food was so bad that it was all we could 
do to eat it. 

Gluck: This was before the hunger strike, so everybody was 
eating at this time? 

Kettler: Yes, this Is before the hunger strike. Everybody was 
eating. The next group was the [one which called the] 
hunger strike - the one that followed us. That 
was another decision that was formed by the women. 

Alice Paul was still In Jail after we finished 
our thirty days. We were sent back together fto the 
city jail] with other women, but Alice Paul - I 
think - either hadn't quite finished her thirty days 
or she had sixty days. I don't remember. 

Gluck: She was in jail the same time you were. 

Kettler: She was In Jail when we got there, together with 
about eight or twelve other women? they were all 
arrested at different times and a sentence would expire 
at different days, too. 

Gluck: While you were In jail, did she make decisions for 
the group, or did the group really decide together? 

Kettler: The group decided together. We talked, you know. 

All we could do was talk. We couldn't read. I don f t 
know why. Since we were all sitting at one table, 
we did a great deal of talking as to ho* to comport 

We also had certain prescribed prison walks 
through the gardens there j It was a lovely fall time 
of the year, you know. The leaves were turning 
red and they were falling, the air was fresh. 

The food was the greatest problem we had there. 
It was just unbelievable - the worms that were found 
in the oatmeal we ate, in the soup we ate. I 
don't remember what else we were given to eat. 
don't remember anything else. The coffee was God 
knows what — it wasn't coffee. It might have been 
chicory or - whatever is chicory, roasted peanuts? 

Gluck i It's a root. 

Kettler: A root? I think peanuts are probably too expensive, 
you know. 


Kettler: Some of the women were actually on a hunger 

strike already; they Just couldn't eat. The only thing 
they could eat was bread - If it wasn f t moldy and if 
it didn't show rat tracks. 

That prison was paid hundreds of thousands of 
dollars to fesd us, and it raised beautiful vegetables. 
We had none of them. It raised all the food that 
was necessary to maintain that prison - besides a 
great deal more that they could buy on the outside. 
Instead, they bought this old stuff that's been 
rancid and in warehouses heaven knows how many years, 
and fed us that . 

Of course, In those days a lot of food had worms 
in it; you had to be careful. When you bought it, you 
had to eat it right away. The prison didn't buy the 
food right away or didn't cook it right away, and it 
bought the worst of all possible foods anyway. It 
was all loaded with worms. I Just didn't know what 
to do; I used to pick out the worms. If I found some 
clean oatmeal or clean soup, I'd eat it. But most 
of us lost a lot of pounds during the thirty days in 
that Jail. 

Incidentally, we weren't there [at Occoquan] 
thirty days. After they sent Peggy back to Washington - 
I think the next day they sent us back [to the city 
Jail]. The superintendent didn't want us any longer, 
and he maneuvered to get us moved out of there and to 
send us back to the city Jail to finish our sentence. 
We had about three days more to serve. We had lost 
our five days off for good behavior the first day 
we were In the city Jail. Of course, we lost it at the 
workhouse, too, because we initiated that — what do 
you call it? 

Gluck: Work strike? 

Kettler: We had all kinds of notoriety. The newspapermen 

came to interview us. They'd even bring us food from 
the outside. The food in the city Jail was much better 
than at the workhouse. But we were mad; we were so 
darned mad. They put us in solitary confinement - 
two in each cell. 

Gluck i This was in the city Jail? 






Gluck : 

This was In the city Jallj after the fracas at the 
workhouse. I remember that after we ate, we'd take 
the tin plates and throw them through the bars of 
the [laughter] gate, of the doors, right at the windows. 
I think we broke some windows. We raised Calnt We 
raised so much hell that, I tell you, the prison was 
glad to get rid of us; we were demoralizing the other 
prisoners In the place. 

Also, I was smoking then. I remember giving one 
of the girls some money to buy me cigarettes. I 
never got them. She probably spent the money on 
dope. It was really funny, I mean. We learned one 
thing: that you never, never buy anything through 
the prisoners in a Jail. Never, because you'll never 
get it nor the money back. 

In Occoquan were you in a cell? 
cell together? 

How many were in a 

We were in dormitories. We all slept in one long 
dormitory, with beds on both sides i like the ones you 
see in motion pictures of prison wards or hospital 
wards, where they have beds on both sides. 

And all the suffragists were in the same dormitory, 
or most of them? All of you who were arrested were In 
the same dormitory? You weren't in separate dormitories? 

Oh, no. They had a dormitory for about thirty 
women. I think we all slept there, not Just the 
suffragettes but the other women, too. I don't 
recall they had two dormitories . At least I have no 
recollection of seeing another dormitory. And the 
beds were about three feet apart. 

Were they bunk beds? 

No, no. Just straight, narrow beds, like the hospital 
beds or the prison beds you see in dormitories. Or 
like the dormitories in the army that I've seen in 

[The isolation of the suffragists] happened 
afterwards. You see, after our Insistence that we 
were political prisoners, and the fact that we started 
the Incident leading to the brutality there, the 
later prisoners were segreatedj they were put in 
cells. This is what they're referring to [in Doris 



Stevens* book, Jailed for Freedom], They're not 
referring to the time that I was there, but to later 

Gluck : 


We were in the same dormitory. We took turns 
washing ourselves every morning. There were several 
places there and we Just took turns washing ourselves. 
Then we dressed and went into the dining room to eat 
our worm food. 

To me, that was the most terrible part of the 
whole prison - the food. We all suffered. One 
woman was terribly sick when she was taken out of there 
because she just couldn't eat. She came from a 
wealthy family. I think two of those women had 
husbands or fathers who were senators or represen 
tatives in the Congress o One of them came from an 
extremely wealthy family, and going to prison was a 
real sacrifice for her. After all, I came from a 
very poor family. But our food was always clean. 
This was the first time I was confronted by worms. 

These were outstanding because there were so 
many of them [worms]. I know that often I'd Just 
leave the foodj I Just couldn't eat It. I Just 
couldn't go through the Job of picking out the worms, 
weevils, or whatever they were. It was really miserable 
In that fashion. Otherwise, we weren't punished. 
There was nothing the superintendent could do If 
you refused to work. 

Everyday you would go to the workroom and refuse 
and Just sit there the whole day? 

We'd Just sit there all day long, except when we 
went out. I think twice a day we went out for our 
"con stitutional . " 

Was there any beating of the women besides that one 

That was the only occasion. As I said, that was the 
only brutality that we suffered. But the next group 
that came in went on a hunger strike, and they were 
brutally treated. Groups of women who were 
arrested after us were really brutally treated. 
They received very severe treatment. They were beaten 
and dragged across the - I don't know what you would 


Kettlerr call it - patio or driveway or something from the 

office to the cells. Some women had broken ribs and 
were bleeding profusely and they weren't treated. 
Others had all kinds of lacerations. Have you read 
about that In Doris Stevens' book? 

Gluck: Yes. I also remember the incident that you were 
talking about, when the deputies were called in. 
It's either in that, or the National Woman's Party 
book - I'm not sure which. 

Kettler: That was In the book? I don't remember. I know that 
what was not in the book - and evidently wasn't 
considered Important to mention - was the fact that 
it was my group who decided to declare all suffragettes 
political prisoners. 

That really gave quite a different tinge to the 
whole struggle. We were political activists, and 
when we were arrested, we were political prisoners} 
arrested on trumped-up charges - obstructing traffic. 

Gluck i Do you recall how the group arrived at the decision? 

Kettler: How we arrived at the decision? Peggy Johns was the 
truly political person in that group. She's the one 
that suggested it, and we all agreed with her. I'm 
surprised that the trade unionist didn't mention it 
first, but a trade unionist doesn't necessarily 
find their experience in political prisoner activities. 
Peggy Johns evidently knew quite a good deal about 
political prisoners and mentioned It. I didn't 
even think of it - if I thought at all. Actually, I 
was immature in many ways and mature in other ways. 
I had a very unbalanced type of mind at that time. 

Gluck i Was the decision made before your sentence or once 
you were in the city jail? 

Kettler: No. After we were sentenced, we were taken to the 
city Jail and kept there overnight and taken to the 
prison in a bus the following morning. I think it was 
their [the prison] bus. It might have been a public 
bus, but I don't remember. 

One of the experiences we had was that we talked 
quite at length with one of the other prisoners at 
the workhouse who had been there, or who had been 


Kettlers arrested, I don't know how many times; we asked how 
that happened. She said that first of all, she was 
a drug addict - a heroin addict - and that she would 
be arrested and given a sentence and sent to this 

Then, when her sentence was over and she arrived 
in Washington, the first person she met was a police 
man. "What's your name? Where do you live?" 
Well, after you've been in prison, you have no 
address. Immediately, she was hauled back to the 
courthouse and given another sentence and sent back to 
prison again . 

She told us that this would probably happen 
again unless she could be met by someone; someone 
who would claim that she was a relative or something. 
We arranged to have one of our women at headquarters 
declare her as a ward or a custodian (or another 
word that's common but I can't think of It). 
That happened. 

We took her to the headquarters and she wa« 
there two or three days. One day she wanted to go 
for a walk. They couldn't stop her. I mean, after 
all, you can't stay In one building all day long. 
They chose me to go along with her but told me not 
to let her - under any circumstance - leave me, 
that she should walk with me - and come back with me. 
You know, I lost her. 

I knew that I couldn't keep her. She was a 
big woman - she must have been a whole foot taller 
than I am and heavy-set. We came to a building and 
she said she wanted to see somebody. She was only to 
be gone a minute. And I argued with her until I 
saw that it was hopeless. I had to let her go. 
There was nothing I could do, absolutely nothing I 
could do. She never came down. I came back and told 
the people. They knew there was nothing they could 

Aside from which, these prisoners are never 
without drugs in the Jail. She was given drugs; 
she bought drugs somehow or other. In some way or 
in some fashion, she was able to get drugs at the 
workhouse so that she really had drugs whenever she 
needed them. 


Gluck: How did the other prisoners at the workhouse react to 
the suffragists? 

Kettleri As I said, when they saw we weren't working, they 
took heart; they could be real courageous. They 
wouldn't work either. That's what bothered the 
superintendent. He wouldn't have cared so much if 
they worked, but it was the fact that we were inspiring 
these women to be brave and not work either. We 
probably said "Don't you work, either. Join us." 
So they joined us. I imagine this is what we told 
them, I don't really know. 


Gluck: When you got out of the workhouse, they sent you the 
last three days back to the city Jail. And then you 
got out of there and you went back to headquarters? 

Kettler: To headquarters. I don't know how long I stayed 

there. I think I was in Washington another week or 
two. I was even tempted to go back again on the 
picket line. But actually, I Just couldn't stand the 
thought of going back to that Vtorkhouse again. 
The food almost killed me, and some of the women 
were really quite sick from itj some of them almost 
starved themselves to death. 

Gluck: How did you feel about It all after you were released 
from prison? 

Kettler: I felt in a sense horrified by the different things 
that could happen to you In a prison. It wasn't as 
exciting as I thought it would be; it was exciting 
in a frightening way but not exciting in a joyous 
way. That was one reason why I decided not to go 
back again on the picket line and then be tried 
again and sentenced again. I would have been 
sentenced the second time, and may have even been 
given sixty days though I doubt It. I probably would 
have received thirty days. 

But after thirty days of that dreadful food and 
the fear of what might happen to the next suffragette 
contingent that was arrested, I didn't want to go 


Kettler: back. I Just wasn't courageous enough, because It 

did take courage to go back again. None of the four 
women in my contingent signed for another [commitment] ; 
none of us did.* 

Gluckt Did you keep in touch with the other women at all? 

KetUleri The only one I kept in touch with was Peggy because she 
lived in New York and so did I. I saw quite a bit of 
her in Mew York until I went West. Then I didn't see 
her again until about twelve years ago. I visited 
England. I got her address through a man who was 
writing a biography of Eugene O'Neill. He had a 
letter in all of the newspapers throughout the country 
asking for anyone who knew Gene, who had any Information! 
that he would be very pleased to receive it because he 
was writing this book. 

So I wrote him, and in the correspondence 
mentioned my prison experience. He wrote back and 
said, "You know, Peggy Johns is still alive; she's 
a sturdy old lady. M I tell you, I was thrilled when 
I heard this. I wanted her address right away. I 
got it and I wrote to her. She wrote back, "Dearest 
Ernestine." But she wasn't so impressed with me when 
she saw me in person . To me she looked like a grand 
dame . 

I went with her, and the writer left us - he 
had work to do. She took me to the bars in the 
Village, it was Just merely walking around from one 
bar to another. In one of them, I noticed that every 
time a young girl came in she'd go over and kiss 
Peggy on the cheeks. I thought it was so delightful 
to see that sort of thing - nobody ever did that to 
me. [Laughter] But they did it to Peggy. We 
weren't impressed fwlth one another). Although she 
invited me to come "and visit her, I didn't. 

Then, I met an old, old boyfriend of mine whose 
name I've even forgotten. This was after so many 
years. I was a young girl in those early days. And 
she was disgusted with me. 

*Editors note: There is some Independent evidence that 
Peggy Johns did return. See Doris Stevens' Appendix. 


Gluck : 

Gluck : 

Gluck : 

Gluck : 




What were your impressions of Alice Paul at that time? 

She was a very serious woman. My impression of her 
was of a very serious, dedicated person. This is 
all I could tell you about her because there 
was nothing else that I could think of that stands 
out in my mind. 

Was she charismatic? 

I wouldn't say so. As I said, she was extremely 
serious. I have the vision of a very serious, dedicated 
suffragette. If she had charisma, I hadn't noticed 

Do you recall any of the other women at the [National 
Woman's Party] headquarters that you met? 

Yes, I recall a number of them but I don't remember 
their names anymore. I could recognize them if I had 
the book and saw their names. 

But you didn't keep up any associations? 

Only one other woman in our group besides Peggy lived 
in New York - the trade unionist. I didn't keep in 
touch with her at all. 

The experience of being in jail together didn't create 
any bonds? 

I don't know. It just didn't; except with Peggy. 
Peggy was a little woman - she wasn't much taller 
than I am. Maybe we Just stood together and supported 
one em other; it gave us this additional muscle that 
we needed. 

When you went back to New York, then, you had no 
thoughts of any continuing Involvement with the women's 

No, I really didn't. I mean I would engage in 
any parade they had or any big affair they had, 


see, I wasn't even in favor of citizenship; : wasn't 
political in that regard. The only thought I had 
In mind was that voting didn't help the working 
people; that all that would happen Is to add so many 
more votes; but that nevertheless it had the Illusion 
of equality In it. It really was an illusion; because 
Alice Paul has been fighting for equal rights ever 


Kettler: since then, and we only gained it Just last year. 

It's funny. You see, this is where some of my 
own revolutionary zeal ceases to be revolutionary. 
I should be the first to criticize any discrimination 
of that nature at anytime in my life. And yet, 
I didn't do it. For the life of me, I don't know 
why. The [denial of the] vote struck me as very 
undemocratic. There was such a lack of democracy 
regarding women that I should think I would have fought 
in it - that I would have continued in that organization 
And yet I didn't. 

The trouble was that I really wasn't political. 
I was in a political group, but most of them were 
writers or artists of one kind or another - musicians, 
teachers, professional type of people with other 
interests besides politics. So, really, my interests 
were fragmented. I didn't choose politics until 
almost recently. 


Gluck: I would like to go back now and discuss that whole 

early notion of feminism. At that time, there was a 
group of feminists in Greenwich Village, like Crystal 
Eastman and Ida Raugh. 

Kettler: I knew them. 

Gluck: You were involved in that circle, weren't you? 

Kettler: I wasn't involved in their circle, but I knew them. 

Gluck: Did you use the word feminist in those days, do you 

Kettler: I really and truly don't remember. I think so. What 
other word could they have used? 

Gluck: Some of the women, of course, who were not radical Just 
talked about being a suffragist because they didn't 
have a larger feminist vision. 

Kettler: Both men and women seem to have taken thousands of 

years to understand that there was a rupture between 



Gluck : 

Gluck i 


the male and the female sex; that women were 
assigned certain Jobs and men were assigned other Jobs, 
and that out of this assignation of Jobs developed 
the idea of male superiority - the man was taller, 
stronger, brawny, and could beat the woman unconscious. 
But this is the way the human race has always acted. 
In all the tribal wars the victor has a perfect 
right to humiliate and subjugate the losers. This 
is the way their attitude was towards women. 

This is what women have failed to understand. 
The vote was nothing; even the men had it. The men 
misused the vote and the women misused the vote. 
This is one of the misfortunes of a democracy; people 
can't Judge - have no way of Judging - what would be 
to their benefit and what turns out to be to their 

This is the way I have always thought - in 
those terms. My group of anarchists and Wobblies and 
socialists - the women especially - thought as I 
did. To an extent the men did, but to a large extent 
they felt very superior to the female sex. Women 
were still not in the forefront as writers or as 
artists or as philosophers or as teachers. Women 
themselves wouldn't go to the forefront. There were 
very few women - like George Elliott. Or what is 

'a rose is a rose 

this other one in France who wrote 
is a rose"? 

Gertrude Stein? 

Gertrude Stein. There are very few such women. They 
were unusual, in the sense. We mistakenly say they 
are like men . We say that because we have no other 
comparison. We compare one existence to another to 
arrive at some conclusion. That is why the saying 
is: "that she is Just like a man." But actually she's 
not like a man. She's Just like a human being; with 
certain talents and aspirations and development. 
In thai/ sense, both men and women have them. 

These thoughts are those that you had in those early 
days , too? 

Yes. I've always had them. I had philosophical 
ideas about feminism; not political ones. The 
political ones arose only when my political conscious 
ness realized that I was ignorant - that I was really 


Kettlen illiterate politically. I began to read very rapidly 
and then sort of Joined all my thoughts together and 
realized that society Is political, economic, 
philosophical. All knowledge Is tied up In our 
society, and you can't solve any problem along a 
specific, narrow line. You have to take all these 
Ideas into consideration in order to arrive at some 
tolerable conclusion or solution. 

Gluck: Were you influenced at all or did you have contact 
with that Greenwich Village group? 

Kettler: Oh yes. Oh yes. I was in It for about three years, 
I guess, maybe longer. Until I came West. I was 
in it about two years because I came West in 1918 and 
I was In the Village, I remember, in 1916 and 1917 - 
or maybe even before 1916. 

Gluck: That's where the very active radical feminists were, 
isn't it? 

Kettler i As I say, they were mostly dilettantes and they were 
mostly n on- political. You see, that was the time that 
I was Interested in the theater and I was interested 
in writing. I'd done a great deal of writing. I 
was interested in art. I was a bohemian, In the real 
sense of it. The politics were sort of brought into 
it because you live in a political society. Because 
certain ideas would be expressed about which I felt 
offended and, if I corrected them, I would try to 
correct them politically as well as philosophically. 
Politics did not play a role in my life; it was 
a part of the general life I lived. 

Gluck: The feminism? 

Kettler: Feminism was a part of my general life. Feminism was 
not outstanding in my life? all of these were 
outstanding. I can't pick on any one subject and say 
that is the subject that had a certain influence on 
me . They all had an influence on me . 

What I"m trying to say about feminism is that I 
did not play a distinct feminist role. I argued when 
the subject came up In a discussion - but only when 
the subject came up in a discussion. I wasn't 
fighting for feminism. I don f t know why. I was too 
young, really, to fight for anything. I was having a 
good time. 



Kettler: I was really young In those days. I was young not 
just In years. I had an Immaturity and I enjoyed 
living and arguing and discussing. Actually, 
seriousness didn't enter my life until quite a few 
years later. In fact, I don't know when it entered 
my life. [Laughter] 

Gluckt The atmosphere was of that Greenwich Village bohemian 
radical, then, essentially? 

Kettlen It had to be radical. I assure you, I couldn't have 

tolerated conservative people. We'd meet them and argue 
with them and go away. 

Clucks The Provincetown Players were all tied up with 
feminist issues? people like Floyd Deli and Max 
Eastman were involved in that, weren't they? 

I don't know. You'll have to read The Liberator to 
find out. They wrote for The Liberator at that time, 
but I haven't seen a magazine in years. I suppose 
they're in some university's archives. 

Glucki Did you write for The Liberator at all? 

Kettler: No. I didn't publish anything; two or three poems - 

Gluck: Were you familiar with their ideas? Henrietta 

Rodman had a plan for an apartment. Actually they 
were implementing a lot of Charlotte Perkins Oilman's 
ideas about how lives could be organized so that 
women were freed from very rigid roles. Were you 
familiar with any of those ideas? 

Kettler i I was familiar with single tax and with the ninety- 
nine year lease. In fact, it was someone from the 
single tax colony somewhere in Massachusetts (the 
people who owned this land and leased It to those who 
worked it) sent me to college. Of course, that's how 
I learned something about It. But that's the only 
interest outside of my regular radicalism that I had. 
I think I read Henry George at that time, but I 
don't remember. 

Gluckt When you went to Washington, B.C., did you talk to the 
suffragists there at all in terms of feminism? Were 
they very narrowly defined, do you remember? 




I don't know; that was another one of my adventures, 
you know. Actually, I went there as an adventure - 
not seriously but as an adventure. I became far 
more aware of it and conscious that going to jail is 
not an adventure - it's an adventure but not an 
amusing one and not an entertaining one. I had much 
more awareness of feminism and suffragette-ism after 
I came out of prison than I did before then. 
Before then - it isn't that I didn't hear about it, 
but I didn't become overheated about it. 

You see, Joining organizations or getting excited 
or enthusiastic about certain political adventures 
wasn't my - what is that old expression? - I can't 
remember. It Just wasn't In my nature to do that. 
I didn't understand organization until I Joined the 
political organization, or until actually I Joined 
the union organization. 

But a union organization has a sense of respon 
sibility which you cannot escape. You have to pay your 
dues and you're supposed to go to meetings. You 
Just don't escape those - the dues-paying especially. 
In a political organization there is a different 
idea. You may or may not pay your duest you can't 
be expelled or suspended. Something could happen to 
you but generally it doesn't. There is a lack of 
total responsiblity and dedication, really. 

Those things I learned when I Joined them, 
my early youth, I didn't Join anything. 


And you don't recall what kinds of ideas the other 
suffragists with you [In Washington, D.C.] had? 

There were really liberal-conservatives. They were 
not radicals. That doesn't mean there were no radicals 
in the group - there were. But they were not effective 
and they would not waste their time there. Like 
Peggy Johns, who was a socialist or an anarchist or 
a radical - she certainly didn't go back or didn't 
Join them afterwards. I don't think that the woman 
who was connected with the trade union Joined them 
and went back to them afterwards. It was really a 
conservative group of women. 

Many of them came from fine, rich families with 

very good minds and a willingness to fight for their 
ideas; to endure prison and the food ana to even 

Kettlen starve if they couldn't eat the food there. Some 
of the women did just virtually starve. They lost 
quite a bit of weight in Jail. 

But, you see, women like that are not only dedicated, 
Having come from a well-to-do home, food was an 
essential quality to them. To me it was a quantity. 
The quality disturbed me very much, but I had to make 
a choice between quantity and quality. 
I had to have something to eat, and you can't live 
on bread. At least, when soup is served you, you 
want to eat the soup. When cereal is served you, 
you want to eat the cereal. Before I could eat, 
I had to dig out all the bugs. This is terrible. 
But I had to do that so I could eat the food. You 
know, for about thirty years afterwards, I couldn't 
eat oatmeal nor soup in a restaurant. You couldn't 
get me to eat soup in a restaurant . It Just sickened 
me. To this day, I keep searching for things in it. 
This is the lasting effect that Jail had on me. 

I sure felt awfully sorry for those women. 
They weren't poor like I was and they could be very 
choosy about their food and very demanding, and I 

Gluck: So their vision was basically really not broader? 

Kettler: No, their vision was quite limited to voting rights 
for women. The fact that Alice Paul, for so many 
years, fought for the ERA Just shows that she didn't 
have much support. That party organization fN.W.P.] 
should have spread throughout the country and should 
have really been the national organization that was 
organized only about six years ago. But it wasn't. 
I didn't even know where Alice Paul was. 

When I talked to the League of Women Voters here 
to see if there were any other women in this area who 
had served time at Occoquan, they didn^t know. 
And none of them - simply none of them - referred me 
to Alice Paul. None of them. It would have been 
very interesting to correspond with her. 

That might have gotten me Interested in it. But 
I don't think so - because I had been asked to Join the 
League of Women Voters and I Just couldn't stand 

Kettler: what I call capitalist politics. I can't stand It. 
I have enough arguments within my own group; for 
Instance, about the last presidential election - voting 
for McGovern, of all candidates. 

Gluck: The suffrage thing was just sort of an adventure, but- 

Kettler: Well, It was part of my radical background} as a 

radical, I believed In Justice. It was very Just for 
women to vote. It was highly undemocratic and it 
was an outrage that so much opposition has been 
placed against them getting the ballot. I mean - 
when I think of It - it's Just Incredible! I 
can't believe it. I condemned it! This is the way 
I felt. 

That's why I went down there [to Washington, 
B.C.]. It wasn't Just an adventure. Since I was 
not a political person, I might have been taken as 
an adventurer. But I was actually outraged that 
women didn't have the vote! There were, after all, 
as many women In the country as men. What is this 
business? Is a woman so far below a man intellectually 
that she's not fit to vote? 

Those were my thoughts. But I would think the 
same way about other issues - and there were many 
other issues. Poverty was a distinct issue in 
those days and so was war. So was unemployment - all 
the Issues that crop up and have continued throughout 
human history. You take them upj you Just don't 
forget them. You take them along with you as you go 
from one development to another. 

Some people may be radicals today, but if they 
get a good Job might not be radicals tomorrow. In 
a sense, though, part of the radicalism would 
stick. They would be able to discuss certain Issues 
from a liberal or even a radical point of view. But 
they may not agree with it. 

Gluck: During that early period in Greenwich Village, what 

were your attitudes and beliefs about sexual freedom - 
which was one of the other big, important issues at 
that point? 

Kettler: I've always had an attitude toward sexual freedom. 
Not necessarily free love. You think in te:rms that 
love should be free. Nevertheless, in favor of it 


Gluck : 

Kettler i 

Gluck : 


for the very reason that engaging in it was 
considered an immoral, puritanic issue. It was so 
puritanic, it was so false I couldn't accept it. 
Unless you were legally married, you were not a 
moral woman. Naturally, in those days, we talked 
about the legal prostitute; that a woman would marry 
a man for money, therefore she was a legal prostitute. 
I was very much opposed to that. 

Of course, I also believed that women should 
work after their marriage. That would give them 
more Independence. If they wanted a trial marriage, 
they could try it - provided they had sufficient 
knowledge aoout contraceptives, you know. 

Two issues bother me very much in this free love 
business; one is getting pregnant and the other is 
getting a disease. People - girls, especially - 
have no right to engage in it [sexual activity] 
if they are not property trained, if they are not 
educated in how to prevent those two situations. 
They have no right to sexual freedom with that kind 
of Ignorance . 

This is my idea about sexual freedom 1 , and I've 
always had it. There's never been any period in my 
life that I had it and another time that I didn't 
have it. 

That was certainly a contrast, though, to your back 
ground, wasn't it? 

It was not a contrast} it was part of my background. 
My whole background from childhood was a radical 
background . 

But didn't your mother have rather Victorian 

She had a Victorian attitude toward sex. She 
hadn't overcome her own mother's training about sex 
and she turned it on me. It took me years before I 
found out how children were born. I was so mad at 
her for lying to me that I went home and gave her 
quite a lecture. She was in tears. "She thought I 
would learn." I said, "Where would I learn? You 
kept telling me constantly it was dirty! How 
could you and father do a dirty act? How could you 
convince me that You were doing a dirty act?" I 
thought sex was an unnatural act. 


Gluck : 


She said, "I thought you would find It out In 
the street." I said, "I did," I was already fifteen 
at that time - that's a pretty old age to find out 
about sex. I said, "I did. I Just did. And I'm 
balling you out for telling me lies all my life." 

She started telling me lies when I was four, 
five, six. You see things? you hear things. 
Children are very curious; they're rabidly curious. 
I found that out when I grew up and had contact with 
children. In the first years of their life, they're 
very interested in sex. They're awfully curious. 
They have a period of years of quiet. Prom maybe six 
to about eleven, they are no longer interested in sex. 
They they begin to wake up again. 

To what extent the lies parents tell their 
children bring on that amnesiac period between six 
and eleven, I don't know. But I had no amnesia 
about it; I was curious about it my whole life. 
That's why I was angry at my mother for telling me 
lies when I had to have the truth. The truth would 
have been very good for me. 

So you see, my mother had mixed ideas. Actually 
much of my radicalism I learned outside. But I already 
had a mind that was capable of handling abstract 
ideas. I had an above-normal Intelligence. It 
isn't that I was conservative at one time and radical 
at another. I was always radical. When I could 
begin to think and talk, I talked as a radical. 
That was at twelve, thirteen - maybe before then. 
I don't remember. 

So your association with the radicals, along with 
everything else, probably helped formulate your 
ideas on sexual freedom. 

You know, my Ideas on sexual freedom started before 
I was fifteen; when I asked all the questions and 
was told all the lies. I began to analyze the whole 
sex subject in my mind. I would say, "How is it 
possible that men always have love nests if sex 
is abnormal? Is it possible that men are abnormal?" 
I began thinking in that fashion and straightening 
out my own ideas on it. I couldn't quite accept 
the fact that if sex was dirty, my father and mother 
engaged in it . I couldn't accept that. I would go so 

Kettler: far as to analyze the love nests. The papers were 

rampant with those stories, especially in those very 
early years of the century. 

When you talk about sexual freedom to me, I had 
sexual freedom before I reached fifteen; when I was 
already rebelling against much of the stuff that I 
didn't know and some of the stuff that I had already 
figured out for myself. I couldn't coordinate uhem. 
I could not coordinate them until I found out that 
sex was not only normal but that, without sex, there 
would be no human life. This I was able to grasp 
very quickly. 

Within one year, I developed so rapidly that 
everybody remarked about it. I could not have 
developed without a brain, an unusual brain. I'm 
talking now, in a sense, philosophically. I'm not 
talking politically or economically. I'm saying that 
my philsophy, my philosophical attitude, was of a 
nature where I had to analyze ideas. I couldn't 
analyze them from one point of view and shut off the 
other points of view. 

When I analyzed capitalism, I analyzed it from 
both sides; from the point of view of Marxism, and 
from the point of view of capitalism. Because I 
couldn't understand socialism otherwise. I wouldn't 
say that capitalism was evil, and I certainly don't 
say it. Capitalism is not evil; capitalism is a 
misfortune because it has outgrown its usefullness. 
I mean , capitalsm today is a misfortune but capitalism 
was very necessary at one time for the development of 
the economy and technology of our society. 


Gluck » 

Kettler « 

Gluck i 
Kettler « 


What were your plans, then, when you returned to New 
York from Washington, B.C.? 

After I returned - I don't know how - I met this 
Katherlne Hodges again. I don't think she was In New 
York. She felt very guilty for having sent me to 
Washington . She felt that she was responsible for my 
being arrested and given thirty days in jail. 
Jails had very bad reputations for anyone, especially 
for women. That is, if you were a jailbird, you were 
a fallen woman. 

So I don't know how I contacted her or how she 
contacted me? If must have been through correspondence. 
She wrote and asked if I would like to come West. I 
don't think the idea had ever occurred to me, but, 
again, I was very adventurous. I wrote and told her 
I'd love it but I had no money. She said she'd be 
very happy to pay my fare there. I packed up and 
I went West. Of course, my mother was very heart 
broken about it - which is normal for mothers, to be 
heart broken . 

So that was In 

I think it was - when did we enter 

That was In 1918. 
that war? 


You know, I don't know what year I picketed - whether 
it was 1917 or 191b. I think 1917 was when most of the 
picketing was done, because I was there quite a few 
months before I went West. 

Why did she want you to come West? 

Well, I wasn't doing anything. Probably It was my own 
suggestion, too; it probably worked both ways. 
Another thing, she was married and she'd never had 
children. I was just about that young age, you 
know. I didn't even look twenty-one - you should 
have seen the scowl on the judge's face when he asked 
me how old I was and I said twenty-one. I'd just 
become twenty-one. He scowled because he didn't 
believe me. On the other hand, the suffrage party 


Kettler: wouldn't have taken me otherwise. I had to be twenty- 
one. They couldn't be bothered to have a legal action 
on age matters. 

Anyway, I went West. I stopped In a number of 
places. I stopped In this place where this old girl 
friend of mine was. That's where our conversation 
started. I said if it hadn't been for the activists 
in Washington, we would never have got the vote. 
The funny part of it is, that we didn't get the vote 
yet. So I'm getting it mixed up. It must have been 
when I saw her about five years later. 

But I had this argument with her because she said, 
"You didn't get the vote because you picketed the 
White House and went to jail; you got it In spite of 
your activity there." Of course I disagreed with 
her because the Congress was beginning to get quite 
frightened and worried about those women being beaten 
up, you know. Some of them were wives of the congress 
men ; some of them were daughters of congressmen - 
if there was anyone young enough in there; some of 
them were sisters of congressmen, or relatives of 
some kind. 

They really became frightened because those 
women were beaten up. This is not a story, not a 
sob story. This is a true story. Those women were 
really beaten up and injured. Anyhow, I think that 
my friend was wrong about that. But I think that 
this happened a few years later. 

Gluck: It would have to have happened after 1920. 

Kettler: It was really about 192*1- that I saw her, but I also 
saw her on the way West in 1918. I visited her for 
a few days and then went on and stopped in Butte, 
Montana - I don't know why. I think that Katherine 
told me to stop there and get her a pint of whiskey. 
The state of Washington was bone dry, and I didn't 
even know it was illegal. Here I was - they were 
examining the bags in the train and I didn't even 
know. [Laughter] 

When I heard that I told somebody next to met 
"My god, what am I going to do? I didn't know it was 
illegal because I was Just told to get a bottle of 




whiskey and I'm bringing It." He said, "Stick It 
at the bottoms they won't go that far. You're too 
young to be suspected." So I stuck the bottle at 
the bottom. 

That was quite an experience, you know - to 
learn about bone-dry states. I suppose that there 
was rum- running taking place between Montana, Idaho 
and Washington. Washington, I think, was the first 
dry state in the country. 

Anyway, I arrived there in Everett, Washington. 
I didn't stay there long. I stayed there a number of 
months and it wasn't working out. I wasn't terribly 
experienced in office work. I had a public stenography 
business. I wasn't very happy, anyway. Katherine 
Hodges belonged to the Socialist party, so I met a 
number of socialists there and became interested 
in it. 

I went to Seattle, and In Seattle I worked in 
unions. That's when my union experience really 
began . 

When was that? 

That must have been In 

#» when we entered the 

Were you involved in the trade union movement at all 
before you went to Washington? 

No, I wasn't. You see, I'd gone to school. I don't 
believe I worked until the first World War. Then I 
worked in. some defense industry. I don't know where 
else I worked because In 1918 I came West. 


Gluck: When did you become involved in the current women's 


Kettler: About two years ago. I don't know why. For instance, 
some people would try to persuade me to Join the 
League or Women Voters, and I couldn't do it. I 
Just couldn't do it. It felt like a foreign element 
to me. 

But I went with a friend to the NOW organization 
(Rational Organization for Women) about two years 
ago. Then I used to attend all their meetings. 
They had them at a restaurant on Eighth and Vermont; 
in the back, in a large banquet room. We used to eat 
our dinners and hold our meetings there. 

I think that I attended those for about six months 
before I joined. 

Gluck: That was in about 1970 then? 

Kettler: It must have been, yes. I got known right away. 

It's always my way. For instance, the first time I 
went in there , I spoke to the young woman at the desk 
who was giving out literature in and name tags to people 
as they came in. I said, "You know, I spent thirty 
days In Jail for the vote." She said, "You did?" 
I said, "Yes." This is how I connected the National 
Organization for Women; as a continuation of the 
voting struggle. 

It took a long time for it [the Information about 
the Jail term] to really penetrate the membership. 
It didn't penetrate until - when was it when we had 
that big march? - '71? 

Gluck: No, that was '70, on August 26th. 

Kettler: Was it "70? Then I Joined it in '69. 

Gluck: So you'd been involved before that big celebration? 

Kettler: I was a member at that time. 

Kettler: So that was in August, 1970. Is it really two and 
a half years? It's difficult to believe. Well, I 
was a member then in '69 and maybe even in '68. 

Gluck: How did you happen to go to that first meeting? 

Kettler: A friend of mine - a member of the Socialist party - 
told me about it and I said I'd like to go. She 
took me the first time, but after that I went on my 
own . 

Gluck: You were probably one of the few women of your age, 
weren't you? 

Kettler s There were very few. I think at that time there were 
more women of my age than there are now. The women 
of my age seemed to become disgusted with the sexual 
concentration of the MOW organization. It was much 
more concentrated then. They had a play about it, 
most of which I couldn't hear - my hearing is very bad. 

This woman, who must have been in her seventies, 
got up and said, "Can't you girls think of anything 
else but sex? This whole meeting has been devoted 
to sex and I think tnat's filthy." Boy, you oan't 
imagine what it did to us. We tried to pacify her. 
It's one of the things I've fought against my whole 
life; my mother and father also told me that sex was 

Gluck: So you really reacted to this woman getting upset at 
that play at the NOW meeting. 

Kettler: Well, yes. I wasn't upset. I thought, "My god! Is 
it possible that people would come to a NOW meeting 
and still hold those views!" But I don't think 
she considered it dirty, really; she considered it 
as an extraneous subject, an extraneous activity. 
That's not true of the ^OW movement; they take a 
special interest in sexual freedom. They Just don't 
have those kind of old women any more. If they 
do, they're like me - they recognize that we've 
been sexually maligned as well as mistreated. 

We want the right to understand sex and then to 
use our own option as to whether we want extra 
marital relations or whether we want pre-marital 
relations; to at least be given an education on birth 


Kettler: control and against veneral diseases and so on. 

I've always been very open about sexual subjects. 

Gluck: What kind of activity did you get involved in with NOW? 
Just going to their meetings? 

Kettler: Just going to the meetings. Most of those girls 

have cars. They can go here and there; they don't 
need to exercise their feet. On the other hand, 
my feet hurt very badly and I have no car. If I 
go to a meeting, I have to go out in the dark and the 
city has become dangerous in the dark. It's dangerous 
enough in the day. I'm actually Infirm in that regard. 
Also, my eyes are not very good. I can't go to the 
headquarters and spend some hours there answering 
the telephone and meeting anyone who may come in 
during an afternoon or during an evening. I Just 
can't go anyplace. If I go to a meeting, I have to 
beg a ride from somebody. 

Gluck: But you're quite committed to that? 

Kettler i I'm committed to NOW, yes. I'm committed much more 

to NOW than to the women's liberation movement, because 
I've met some communists In the women's liberation 
movement. And I'll tell you, I've gotten frightened 
of them. This is very foolish of me because I 
really don't have any fear of them. 

Women's liberation started out, in my opinion, 
badly, but they're recovering from It now. Now it 
may not be women's liberation, but just certain 
members of the women's liberation movement. They 
started badly in the sense that they focused on 
issues that were not the important ones. To me there 
are very basic discriminatory Issues thai; we have to 
fight. Whether you wear a bra or don't wear a 
bra is immaterial to me. It's healthier to wear a 
bra, which was discovered in modem society, than 
it is to let the breasts move up and down which may 
cause a breakage of some of the muscles if. you 're too 
heavy or cause other disruptions in the breast . 

There are certain things like that. And then, 
also the freedom of using four-letter words. I have 
no objection to them except that they're misused. 
They are meaningless. We have some very good words 
in the dictionaries that mean much more than those 


Kettlen four-letter words. I've had a certain objection to 
them all my life for the reason that they're used 
without discrimination. 

Gluck: What do you see the goals of the current women's 
movement being? 

Kettler: The goal of the current women's movement is to get all 
the clauses within ERA passed. It'll be a piecemeal 
struggle, absolutely piecemeal. You have to fight for 
each thing separately. It may take hundreds of years, 
but we have to fight. 

Wage discrimination will be one of the hardest 
of all the battles that we have facing us. Aside 
from the fact of negotiating wages, unions will have 
the hardest fight of any other demands made. Really the 
differential between male and female wages is much 
too great to tolerate. So many women are aware of 
it and Just take it for granted} that that's the 
division of sexes. 


Of course, to me, the worst of anything to which 
I have great objection is the intellectual inequality 
between the sexes. I mean, the belief that the male 
brain is more equipped to think than the female 
brain. You meet so many men and so many women; you 
find them both ignorant and you're not equipped to 
talk to either one of them. They are not equipped to 
carry on a conversation with anyone who's had some 
education. I'm talking generally now - the average 

The Progress of Women ; Two Waves of Feminism 

Gluck: Ernestine, what do you think has happened to women 

since the very early feminism ouu. suffrage movement? 
What kinds of changes do you see, if any? 

Kettlen I see changes especially since the women's rebellion 
six years ago. 

Gluck « Before then, did you see any changes? 

Kettlen Before then, the only fight was in unions. Union 


Kettler: women were the only ones who were really fighting, and 
that was almost solely an economic Issue. But I do 
not remember. You see, I've been a member of a union 
for many years. 

I do not remember that there was much discussion 
of feminism among them. And, because It was not a 
principal issue with me, I didn't raise the issue unless 
it arose In some fashion. Then I expressed my 
views and, to my knowledge, none of them criticized 
me or disagreed with me. A lot of the members liked 
me and they liked my ideas and they liked the way I 
thought and so on . 

Gluck: So really until the new feminist movement, you don't 
think that women, generally, changed much In terms of 
the roles they were playing and in terms of the attitudes? 

Kettler: I think so. But when you live through periods, you 
don't see the changes unless they're very violent. 
Actually, the feminist movement today started out 
violently and has been violent throughout. I don't 
mean they fought physically but they did fight 
intellectually. Also, their persistence in changing 
the status of women and changing their image in 
society is very sharp today - to an extent where men 
cannot ignore it any longer. It's comparable to 
the fight for women's suffrage in 191? and 1918. 
It's really quite comparable to that. 

Glucki Why do you think the early* feminist movement failed 

in terms of really changing women's status and roles? 

Kettler: First of all» when you ask me questions about my 
feminism, I have to say that I had a very wide 
concept of feminism. The voting right was only a 
minor right to me; I was something of an anarchist and 
I had no faith in capitalist society. What did it 
matter whether I voted or notj what did it matter 
whether a man voted or not? That's why it wasn't a 
major issue with me. 

I think that what happened is that they put so 
much importance in the vote for women that when they 
got the vote they felt like they had a victory - 
a tremendous victory. Well, it was a tremendous 
victory, but it was a one-issue victory; and that one 
issue was not enough. Through the votes, they should 


Kettler: have had all kinds of civil codes changed. In some 
states, they did. As a matter of fact, the common 
property laws 1 were changed in many states. I don't 
think it ever became a federal issue. A number of 
other rights women have gained. But the major ones - 

For instance, in the economy of our country, 
women are so underpaid in similar work with men that 
it's a disgrace. It's a disgrace; you can't think of 
it any other way than as a disgrace. I can't think 
of a stronger word. 

Today, so many needs have arisen, like childcare. 
Where both parents work, the child has to be left 
someplace. There is no satisfaction in hiring some 
body to take care of the children . Those children 
could be spoiled that way. Actually, having contact 
with their own age is much more preferable. So you 
need childcare. Whether the parents can afford the 
childcare has been the principal issue in that business 

Today, what we've discovered is that many women 
are either single - the husband has escaped or the 
husband has died. Anyway, many women are the sole 
supporters of the children. They have to have a 
childcare center where they could leave them and 
pay a nominal sum of money for the children to be 
taken care of while they're working. This is one 
issue; this is the economic issue. 

There is also the social and the personal issue. 
The parents are actually enslaved to their children, 
and it's good neither for the children nor for the 
parents. They're in bondage; the moment they have a 
child, they're in bondage. They have to re-define 
the word "responsibility." To what degree are they 
forced to be responsible? Should they be responsible? 
Both of these Issues - the degree and whether they 
should or not be responsible - is a part of the 
bondage system that parents have been forced into for 
as long as they've lived; since the human race came 
into existence. 

It was easier in tribal days, when all the parents 
took care of all the children; where the children were 
the responsibility of the whole group. Today, children 
are the responsibility of a single group, and it's not 
even a group - two people cannot be called a group. 

Kettler: They're the total responsibility of two people, 

instead of a tribe of about thirty or fifty people. 

Cluck: So you don't feel that any of these issues were kept 
alive, though, after that early struggle? 

Kettler: They fought for them. Alice Paul fought for this 
amendment - for the Equal Rights Act - ever since 
the voting rights were won; because the voting rights 
didn't give them equality. There were many areas - 
not only in employment but in society, education, 
and politics - where women were quite restricted. 
You couldn't tell whether they were capable of 
learning or not capable of learning so long as 
those areas were closed to them. 

The voting right didn't quite grant them the 
right to run as a candidate for some political Job. 
It was years before women timidly entered the political 
field. Only today, we notice that they are aggressive 
about it. But women have been very timid about their 
rights for many years. It was surprising that the 
states went so far as to vote for them in 1918, 1920. 

The men, I think, didn't want a repetition, 
a continuation, of the female struggle for voting 
rights. They feel the same way about the Equal 
Rights Amendment. It becomes corrosive, this idea of 
equality. All right, so you have equality. Now what 
else do you want? And this is only the beginning 
of the struggle for women I Now they have to fight 

for equality in specific areas, 
fight for as long as they live. 

It's going to be a 

For as long as society exists, women are going 
to fight for their rights. But so will men fight 
for their rights. Men are also in bondage though 
they may think they are superior to women j not only 
economically and politically, but socially. You're 
in bondage If you are not free to make a certain 
decision or if you are brainwashed all of the time. 
We are brainwashed all the time; even the most 
intelligent of us are brainwashed. 

Fighting for freedom is a very esoteric phrase. 
Then you ask, "What freedom? 


Kettler: Can we endure freedom?" You really go Into very 
abstract questions regarding freedom. 

But what women have to fight for are the specific 
needs of herself as a human being, not as a sexual 
object. Whatever she gains, men should also gain. If 
she gains something that men do not have, men are 
entitled to the same gain. 

For instance, the protective rights for women 
now in industry; men are entitled to it, have always 
been entitled to it. They didn't get it, but some 
industries have established them now. They're 
very effective - like coffee breaks. The only thing 
they don't have is how heavy the bundles should be 
that your job demands you should lift. 

Gluck: Ernestine, do you think uhat we were in any different 
position six years ago, when the new movement began, 
than say when you went to Washington and when the 
feminist battle was raging? 

Kettler: You can't compare the two. You really can't. That 
was Just simply one issue; the voting rights. 
Actually, the struggle that began six years ago had 
many Issues In it. The Equal Rights Amendments is 
not one issue; it's an issue with about fifteen 
clauses in it. And, you know, that the women will have 
to fight for each clause - one at a time. 

Gluck: Do you think that men's attitudes towards women have 
changed since the twenties? In what ways? 

Kettler » I think so, yes. They realize that women have been 
discriminated against in jobs and education. Even 
the attitude men have that women have no brains and 
should stay in the kitchen. There Is amongst the more 
intelligent men a change in attitude towards women. 
Whatever we know has been instilled in us from our 
parents and from society; schools, newspapers, 
streets, organizations we belong to and so on. 
And, they have been extremely prejudicial. 

The realization that prejudice is a very bad form 
of thinking has struck men as well as women . But 
mind you, it'll always be a minority of each sex that 
will fight for social gain, never a majority. The 
majority will win by default, and they will benefit. 



Kettler: Like the vote. Women think that they always had the 
vote. They don't know. 

When this came up at the NOW meeting and It was 
discovered that I was one of the suffragists who spent 
thirty days In jail, you have no idea how, afterwards, 
those women came to me to shake my hands. Two 
young girls - of all things - came over. They were 
just so grateful for what I did for them. I didn't 
realize how little is known of the voting rights, 
of how they were won. 

It's not part of our history. 

It's part of our history, but we don't know the 
history. That history isn't taught in school. 

There were In those days, like yourself, a lot of 
women who were feminists In a much broader sense, 
and yet that all disappeared, or it all died out. 

I don't think it disappeared. I meet women and know 
women now who have very much my attitude towards it. 
Amongst the radicals, you'll find a greater tolerance 
for a more universal concept of feminism than 
we had fifty years ago. Even amongst the conservative 
women, you'll find an acceptance of the fact that 
discrimination is quite widely affecting their lives 
and development. 

Gluck: In those early days, did radical men call themselves 
feminists ever? 

Kettler: I don't remember. As I said, feminism Is a new word. 
Gluck: Mot really. 

Kettler: It was then, to me. I don't even remember the word 
feminism. I remember the word suffragette - that's 
what I was called. 

Gluck: You don't remember using the word feminist In those 

Kettler:! probably did because I was a feminist. I was a 

feminist in a much broader sense than a suffragette 
was. As I said, the voting rights didn't mean anything 



Gluck : 
Gluck : 


Gluck : 

Gluck t 

Gluck : 



personal to me, but the women In this country were 
quite justified In fighting for It and demanding 


Ernestine, what about the flappers? 

I don't know; the flapper came during the twenties. 

Did those women really represent any kind of new 
freedom for women? 


I don't think so. Flapper was something that was attached 
to them because they flapped. ["Laughter] I don't 
know why really; I don't know the definition of 
flapper. Do you know? 

I'm not really sure. 

— in the 1920s. The Charleston, for Instance, is one 
of their symbols . 

There was supposed to be a whole new sexual freedom 
of women involved. They bobbed their hair, etc. I 
just don't know if it meant more than that. 

Flapper was not a very flattering term, if you ask 
me. But men were not very flattering to women when 
they wanted to designate them symbolically as a part 
of a generation. So, at that time, they had flappers. 
I don't know what they were during the thirties, 
except very poor. 

The people you associated with, the flappers weren't 
viewed by them — 

We didn't use that term in our crowd - never. 

And they weren't viewed as people who were really 
striving for some kind of freedom for women? 

Freedom for women was something that existed all my 
life. Every year of my life, freedom for women was an 
essential necessity. But it was a wider issue than 
Just one specific one like the voting rights, like 
the same pay for the same type of work, for both 
sexes, and so on. It meant getting rid, most of all, 
of men's attitude that women were an inferior creature i 

Kettler: while they leered at them and wanted them. How on 

earth could they leer and want an inferior creature? 
I used to think in those terms. 

So that there was never a period in my life that 
I would forget about the freedom for women . Freedom 
for women also meant political freedom, economic and 
social freedom, educational freedom. It meant all 
the freedoms that people needed. 

for Freedom by Doris Stevens (New York: 

To the Commissioners of the District of Columbia: 

As political prisoners, we, the undersigned, refuse to work 
while in prison. We have taken this stand as a matter of 
principle after careful consideration, and from it we shall not 

This action is a necessary protest against an unjust sen 
tence. In reminding President Wilson of his pre-election 
promises toward woman (suffrage we were exercising the right 
of peaceful petition, guamnteed by the Constitution of the 
United States, which declares peaceful picketing is legal in 
the District of Columbia. That we are unjustly sentenced has 
been well recognized — when President Wilson pardoned the 
first group of suffragists who had been given sixty days in the 
workhouse, and again when Judge Mullowny suspended sen 
tence for the last group of picketers. We wish to point out 
the inconsistency and injustice of our sentences — some of us 
have been given sixty days, a later group thirty days, and 
another group given a suspended 'sentence for exactly the §amej 

Conscious, therefore, of having acted in accordance with • 
the highest standards of citizenship, we ask the Commissioners 
of the District to grant us the rights due political prisoners. I 
We ask that we no longer be segregated and confined under I 
locks and bars in small groups, but permitted to see each other ,« 
and that Miss Lucy Burns, who is in full sympathy with this 
letter, be released from solitary confinement in another building j 
and given back to us. 

. We ask exemption from prison work, that our legal right I 
to consult counsel be recognized, to have food sent to us from ' 
outside, to supply ourselves with writing material for as much ' 
correspondence as we may need, to receive books, letters, news- j 
papers, our relatives and friends. 

«Jur united demand for political treatment has been de- * 
layed, because on entering the workhouse we found conditions 
so very T>ad that before we could ask that the suffragists be 
treated as political prisoners, it was necessary to make a stand 
for the ordinary rights of human beings for all the inmates. ' 
Although this has not been accomplished we now wish to bring ' 
the important question of the status of political prisoners to 
the attention of the commissioners, who, we are informed, have 
full authority to make what regulations they please for the 
District prison and workhouse. 

The Commissioners are requested to send us a written reply 
BO that we may be sure this protest has reached them. 

Signed by, 



INDEX - Ernestine Kara Kettler 

anarchism, of family, 1, 5-6 
anarchists, 5-6, 7, 8 

Berkman, Alexander, 8 
birth control, 10 
bohemians, 37, 38 
Bryant, Louise, 8 

Equal Rights Amendment, 34-35, 51, 54, 55 

feminism, 10, 11, 35, 36, 37, 56-57, 40, 52 
free love, 41-42 

Goldman, Emma, 8, 10 
Greenwich Village, 37-38 

Havel, Hippolyte, 7-8 

IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), 1, 5, 7, 8 

jail. See Occoquan Workhouse. 

Johns, Peggy, 15, 23, 24-25, 30, 33, 34 

Jailed for Freedom, 17, 21, 23, 29, 30 

League of Women Voters, 40-41, 48 

marriage, attitudes toward, 11 

attitudes toward, 10, 54 

relationship to women, 36, 55 

National Organization for Women (NOW), 19, 48-49, 50, 56 
National Woman's Party, 4, 10, 13-18, 39-40. See also Occoquan 
Workhouse . 


O'Neil, Eugene, 8 

Occoquan Workhouse, 22-32, 40 

parenthood, 53-43 

Paul, Alice, 15, 26, 34, 40 

Province-town, 7-8, 38 

sexual freedom, 41-42, 43-44, 49 

socialism, 5, 6, 47 

Socialist Party, 4, 8, 13 

Socialist Workers Party, 9 

Soviet Union, 6-7 

Stevens, Doris. See Jailed for Freedom. 

union, women in, 51-52 

U_£ Hill With Banners Flying, 17 

voting, attitude toward, 34-35, 36, 41, 52, 56-57 

woman's suffrage: 

early advocacy, 5 

failures of, 34, 36, 52, 54 

feminism and, 39-40 

parade, 1915, 12-13 

picketing White House, 15-18 

women, attitudes toward, 10, 11, 51, 53-55, 57-58 
women's liberation movement, 50-55 


The life histories of the women in this volume present a 
picture of five very different women who participated in the 
suffrage movement. The variations among them are reflected in 
the sources and the nature of their belief in suffrage, and in 
the form and duration of their activities on behalf of women's 
issues. It is valuable to discuss the differences and similari 
ties among these women so that the diversity of women caught 
under the single label "suffragist" can be better understood. 

This interviewer is also led, on the basis of her inter 
viewing experiences, to make certain observations about the 
failure of the suffrage movement to continue as a force for 
feminism after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. 

For Sylvie Thygeson, suffrage for women was part of the 
basic belief in the inevitability of progress towards human 
justice, in the process of evolution. It was derived from her 
own family background, a background which included a grandfather 
who assisted the flight of slaves on the underground railroad. 
Her involvement in the suffrage and birth control movements was 
part of the multi-faceted vision of reform that flourished in 
the progressive era. It is she whose interests remained the most 
tied to women after the suffrage amendment. Perhaps because she 
was a wife/mother/reformer and did not seek a career, she stayed 
in touch with the needs of the majority of women — among which was 
the need to control their own reproduction, still an unfulfilled 
demand of the modern women's movement. 

Jessie Haver Butler, like Sylvie, was raised in a relatively 
primitive environment, the frontier community of Pueblo, Colorado. 
Although her parents were forward thinking and had shared in the 
delight of Bellamy's Looking Backward before their marriage, the 
frontier conditions did not allow time for her mother to engage 
in intellectual pursuits. She had, before her early death, planted 
the concept of feminism in Jessie — through campaigning for woman's 
suffrage and in urging her young daughter to seek an education. 
Thus Jessie's ambition and her determination to have a life better 
than her mother's brought her into the semi-professional fields 
which were expanding for women in the early 1900s, leading her 
eventually to a job with the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission. 

Her earlier experience with the hard life of frontier women 
coupled with her later observation of the exploitation of women 
in factories kindled her interest in women and in suffrage. Since 
her career was her primary commitment, it was through her work 
that she sought to alleviate the suffering of women. 

In contrast to the more simple and traditional — though 
liberal — backgrounds of Sylvie Thygeson and Jessie Haver Butler, 
Miriam Allen deFord was brought up in an environment which, on a 
daily basis, demonstrated an alternative to the traditional woman's 
sphere. Her mother was one of the second generation of female 
doctors in the United States; the generation trained by the 
"Elizabeth Blackwells" of the mid-eighteenth century. It is no 
wonder that at the age of six Miriam responded to the abuse of a 
woman with all the rage of a feminist. By the age of fourteen 
she became her busy mother's surrogate-suffragist. Her suffrage 
commitment preceded her later commitment to radical causes. 

These three women came to suffrage, naturally, as it were. 
Their mothers either presented direct models for them — as in the 
case of Jessie Haver Butler and Miriam Allen deFord — or provided 
the kind of thinking that made the cause of suffrage a natural 
outcome. The mother, even while she remained within the tradi 
tional female sphere, seems to have served as a role model for many 
of these women activists. Other suffragists I have interviewed 
have also discussed the influence of their mother. Though some 
letters, diaries and other material is available on this previous 
generation, unfortunately they are not of a sufficiently broad 
cross-section to help us understand the ideas and motivations of 
the many unknown women who influenced their twentieth century 
suffragist-daughters . 

In contrast to the backgrounds of the three older women, 
Laura Seiler came from an old American family where tradition 
reigned. The only evidence of a flaw in this ideal family pattern 
was her mother's divorce. However, following the separation from 
her husband, Laura's mother returned to the family home with her 
children, rejoining her parents and a maiden aunt, and proceeded 
to live the proper life of a Victorian woman. While in high school 
Laura was exposed to her older sister's feminism, particularly 
through the visits of Nora Blatch (the daughter of Harriet Stanton 
Blatch and granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton) to the house 
hold. Her acceptance of woman's suffrage, however, remained uncon 
scious until she was provoked by male teasing. 

Ernestine Kara Kettler is the only immigrant, working-class 
woman represented in this collection. She is also the youngest 
and was the most radical at the time of the suffrage struggle. 

Coming to the United States from Roumania, in her youth she lived 
in the tenement atmosphere that defined life for most European 
Jewish immigrants. She also lived in an atmosphere of political 
radicalism. Her father, who had died when she was a child in 
Roumania, had been an anarchist and had, according to Ernestine, 
imbued his wife with his ideals. As a young teenager, Ernestine 
was involved in the socialist circles in her neighborhood. More 
educated than most of the young immigrant working-class women, 
she identified more with the radical bohemian sub-culture than 
with the women working in the sweatshops. She questioned the 
double standard and was furious at the way in which women's intel 
lectual capacity was belittled. Her brief, but highly committed, 
participation in the suffrage struggle reflected her feminist 

These differences in background affected both the beliefs 
about woman's suffrage (ideology) and the kind of activities 
(tactics) in which each participated. Sylvie Thygeson was in 
volved in a very "lady-like" aspect of suffrage. She, more than 
any of the others, represented the respectable middle-class matron 
in the reform movements, including suffrage, of the progressive era. 
For many, participation in these movements provided them an oppor 
tunity to expand the boundaries of their very narrowly defined 
spheres. Sylvie, in fact, is quite conscious of the fact that she 
received recognition for her own activities. Usually, a woman in 
her position would receive recognition only as the wife of a pro 
minent and respected attorney, but not in her own right. 

In Sylvie we also observe the different strains of the club 
movement/reformer's arguments for suffrage. Though there was an 
effort to repudiate the then-prevalent notion of "woman's sphere" 
and to argue for her larger participation in society, many of 
these women still adhered to the belief in women's moral superior 
ity. Sylvie, herself, thought ridiculous the notion that women 
were morally superior and even implies that it was a deliberate 
tactic to adopt this argument. Nevertheless, she did believe 
the justification for women's greater participation in society 
rested on their special roles as mothers. 

Perhaps representative of other women like her, she did not 
want to change women's role — only to achieve recognition for its 
importance. Women already had a great influence in society through 
their role in the socialization of the children. That influence, 
she apparently believed, was denigrated by the denial of its pub 
lic counterpart, the right to vote. 

Regardless of the specific arguments that Sylvie employed, 
she viewed woman's suffrage as part of a broad historical move 
ment, an inevitable evolutionary process. As a result, the 
tactics to be used would basically revolve around educating people; 
speaking to them about suffrage. She saw her contribution as merely 
helping the natural process. 

To some extent, Jessie Haver Butler also viewed suffrage as 
a natural and necessary process toward democratization. Unlike 
Ernestine Kettler, the radical, Jessie Haver Butler and Laura 
Seiler were both true believers in the American system. To Jessie 
this meant a commitment to what she referred to as "Carrie Chapman 
Catt's polite, legislative manner" — though she acknowledged the 
greater effectiveness of the more militant tacits of the National 
Woman's Party. Jessie believed in suffrage for women as a simple, 
obvious concomitant of democracy. Her own activities were pri 
marily focused on legislative issues that affected women, both 
with the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission and the D.C. Consumers 
League. When she became more directly involved in the suffrage 
battle, especially during the ratification drive, she continued her 
focus on the legislative issues. Traveling with Carrie Chapman 
Catt, she spoke on a consumer issue as an example of the kind of 
concerns that women as voters would be facing. 

The three women who were younger at the time of their suf 
frage involvement — perhaps because of their youth — were more 
audacious in their participation. Beginning with Miriam Allen 
deFord, they all defied convention to stump for suffrage, boldly 
speaking out in public places or defying the law and being jailed. 
Despite their tactical similarities, there were great differences 
in ideology among the three younger women. 

Laura Seiler did not define herself as a feminist, and in 
this respect was more like the two older women. She did believe 
that there were issues in which women were distinctly qualified 
(e.g. those relating to children, public welfare) , an acceptance, 
really, of the notion of women's sphere. Despite this, she did 
share with the feminists a belief in women's right to economic 
independence and in her own life pursued an active career even 
while fulfilling the roles of wife and mother. The guerilla 
theater-like tactics in which she engaged were perhaps a reflec 
tion of her youthful enthusiasm and also that of an organization 
which believed in using any tactics necessary to keep the issue 
of suffrage before the public eye. 

Miriam Allen deFord and Ernestine Hara Kettler were both 
self-defined feminists, even in those early days. From the 
beginning Ernestine's feminism was closely tied to her general 
radical philosophy. She did not and still cannot separate the 
two. Her brief, though highly committed, activity in the cause 
of woman's suffrage were integrated into her total radical philo 
sophy. Joining the White House picketing at the risk of being 
imprisoned reflected the outrage she felt over the position of 
women in society rather than an ultimate faith in the democratic 

Similarly Miriam Allen deFord had a deep-abiding belief in 
feminism — a belief which led first to suffrage and later to 
broader radical political activity. Suffrage was part of an issue 
relating to women's rights. As an independent working woman living 
away from home, she joined a suffrage group in Boston which nightly 
engaged in street-corner meetings. This participation was an ex 
tension of her background and her own independence. Her radical- 
ization occured concurrently with her suffrage activities, when 
she met the man who later became her first husband and was intro 
duced into the anarchist circles in which he travelled. The 
meeting of the feminist consciousness with the anarchist philo 
sophy led to the espousal of ideas beyond suffrage, i.e. acceptance 
of sexual activity for single women, a basic questioning of the 
institution of marriage, etc. 

All five women, coming from various economic, regional and 
social backgrounds, became committed to the cause of woman's 
suffrage and honored that commitment through some form of active 
participation. Two of the women, Jessie Haver Butler and Laura 
Seiler, remained active right up until the point of final ratifi 
cation in 1920. The other three did not. Sylvie Thygeson r Miriam 
Allen deFord and Ernestine Kettler all moved to states in which 
woman's suffrage had already been granted. 

Miriam Allen deFord and Ernestine Kettler became involved 
in various radical groups, especially the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers 
of the World), after moving to California and Washington, respec 
tively. Without a radical, feminist movement, i.e. one which very 
basically challenged the structure of society, radical women like 
these would, instead, continue to place their energies in other 
movements. The failure of any suffrage group after 1920 to trans 
form itself into such a feminist group (as Crystal Eastman had 

urged the National Woman's Party to do) contributed to the death 
of the early twentieth century women's movement. Basic social 
change, not token legislative change, was the goal of many fem 
inists who had rallied to the suffrage cause. Their commitment 
to suffrage was partially because it was symbolic of women's 
position, not because they really believed that the enfranchise 
ment of women was going to restructure the society in a way which 
would free women. Thus, their involvement was only transitory. 
For women like Ernestine Kettler and Miriam Allen deFord this 
meant that their feminist consciousness would continue to affect 
their lives, that they would assert it in these other radical 
groups. (It is interesting that these two women participated in 
many of the same groups on the west coast and became life-long 
friends.) Only with the emergence of the modern women's movement 
was there a movement with which they could again identify as 

Sylvie Thygeson, though not motivated by a feminist con 
sciousness, seemed to be more in touch with the needs of the 
"ordinary" woman. Her interests led her to help found a Housewives 
Union in Palo Alto (about which, unfortunately, she had no recall) 
and to continue her support of the birth control movement. She 
is really the only one of the five women whose activity showed a 
continuous commitment to women's issues. 

Jessie Haver Butler and Laura Seiler, in the decade following 
the passage of the suffrage amendment, became part of that process 
which might be described as the privatization of women's lives in 
the 1920s. Laura Seiler became preoccupied exclusively with her 
own career in advertising and Jessie Haver Butler devoted the next 
fifteen years to her family and home life, with outside interests 
in the women's club movement which, by this time, had turned away 
from its commitment to women's rights issues. 

Of the four women with whom I discussed the demise of the 
women's movement in the 1920s, it is interesting that none of 
them really personalized it. They spoke rather abstractly about 
how "women had let their organizations go, paid no further atten 
tion," and how there was a slump in women's participation in the 
professions, how there was no movement. Though each in their own 
lives represented that move away from women's issues, they neither 
explained it not connected it with the demise of the early women's 

Jessie Haver Butler, despite the privatization of her life 
in the 1920s, returned to a career in the mid-1930s which she 
defined as being dedicated to the women's movement — training of 
women in public speaking. This work represented her earlier, 

deep-abiding belief in the system. It was merely necessary to 
train women to take their rightful places — though she knew they 
would not be able to do so without a struggle. 

Despite the discontinuity in the participation of most of 
the suffragists in activities related to women's issues, all 
but Sylvie Thygeson are quite aware and supportive of the current 
women's movement. Though they do not all understand the issues 
raised today, they see the women's liberation movement as being 
more complex and "revolutionary" than the movement in which they 
had participated. 

This perception of the current movement as being more 
revolutionary is no doubt accurate, as these interviews clearly 
indicate. Suffrage groups were rigidly and hierarchically organ 
ized while, on the other hand, the current women's liberation 
movement is firmly opposed to hierarchical structure. Further, 
suffragist did not necessarily mean feminist. There is some 
evidence that even among suffragists, feminists were seen as 
man-haters. (When asked if she were a feminist, Laura Seiler 
responded she had always gotten along with men.) Moreover, the 
National Woman's Party, the group then considered the most radical, 
gained its reputation not because of radical ideology but because 
of militant tactics. 

The National Woman's Party was not unlike the other suffrage 
groups. Like them, it was unwilling to become involved in other 
feminist issues. An example of this can be found in the story 
related by Jessie Haver Butler about the dismissal of an active 
suffrage worker because of her decision to have a "eugenic baby," 
i.e. to remain single and to choose a "good genetic father." 

This unwillingness to expand beyond single-issue orientation 
partially accounts for the failure of any suffrage group to sur 
vive as a feminist organization into the 1920s. The National 
Woman's Party continued to function, focusing its attention on a 
new single-issue, the Equal Rights Amendment. But, because of its 
continued single-issue orientation and its failure to address 
itself to other facets of women's existence, it could not build 
a broad base of support, especially among women outside professional 
groups . 

Though current research is pointing to wider participation 
of working-class women in suffrage than had been originally be 
lieved, most of the large suffrage organizations were primarily 
middle class. Ernestine Kettler, though a working-class woman, 

was more closely identified with the radical bohemian sub-culture 
than with the women who worked in the sweatshops. From her de 
scription of the group with thorn she picketed the White House, it 
is obvious though that working-class union women were among the 
participants. Groups like the Women's Political Union (of which 
Laura Seiler speaks) , Wage Earners League, The League for Self- 
Supporting Women, all more localized organizations, made obvious 
and direct appeals to working-class women. Yet, among the many 
labor union women whan we have interviewed, including several among 
them who defined themselves as feminists and who fought for women 
within their unions, none were involved in the suffrage movement. 
For the most part, they did not define this movement as relevant 
to their needs. From the interviews included here, it appears 
that only the Women's Political Union made conscious and deliberate 
efforts to speak to the needs of these women. It would be impor 
tant to locate and interview working-class women who were identified 
with the suffrage struggle to further clarify the meaning of their 
involvement and their relationship to women's groups after the 
passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. 

Although these interviews with "ordinary" suffragists provide 
a vast array of clues helpful for a study of suffrage and suffrage 
organizations, their value lies beyond this. Each of the inter 
views is important in contributing to our greater understanding 
and appreciation of women's lives. Taken together, they begin to 
form the basis for what might be described as a collective history 
of women. 

Sherna Gluck 


Feminist History Research Project 

June 1975 

P.O. Box 1156 
Topanga, California 


Sherna Gluck 

Graduated from Shimer College (affiliate 
of College of University of Chicago) with 
B.A., 1953; from University of California 
at Berkeley with B.A. in Sociology and 
Social Institutions, 1965; and from Univer 
sity of California at Los Angeles with M.A. 
in Sociology, 1959. 

Research Director of Alcoholism Project at 
Olive View Hospital, County of Los Angeles, 
1961-1968. Ethnological consultant and 
editor, Fernwood Films, 1969-1970. 

Active in the Women ' s Liberation Movement 
in the Los Angeles area, helping to found 
a Women's Center and coordinate a research 
group for women leading to the founding of 
the Feminist History Research Project, 1972. 

Developed and taught an oral history women's 
studies course at U.C.L.A. and produced a 
tape/slide program on woman's suffrage based 
on oral history interviews with suffragists. 

As Director of the Feminist History Research 
Project, conducts interviews with women about 
their lives and activities in the early 20th 
century, (suffragists, feminists, labor women, 
professionals, "everywoman") ; facilitates 
workshops in oral history/women's history, 
and lectures on women in the early 20th cen 

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